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Allergies in Dogs
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Allergies in Dogs

Allergens can be found anywhere, but are more abundant in places where dogs live.  The allergic response can range from an unpleasant reaction to death by sudden anaphylactic shock.

Allergy to Dogs

David rosenblatt, D.V.M.

 

We are all under attack, constantly. Millions of malicious microscopic organisms are consistently and stubbornly trying to invade the body, only to cause disease, suffering and death.

In order to deal with this threat, the body is equipped with an amazing defense mechanism called the immune system. This system includes a variety of components with the ability to identify, attack and destroy undesirable invaders.

Often, we can feel the toll of the war being waged. When our immune system is at battle we may feel pain, fever, respiratory distress, swelling, itchiness, diarrhea and more.

Notwithstanding the brilliance of the immune system, it does have its glitches and can sometimes become confused and make terrible mistakes. One example of this is autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, lupus, coeliac, rheumatoid arthritis and more, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own organs.

Another example is when the immune system attacks a non-malicious foreign element to which the body is exposed, causing an unnecessary and harmful immune response. This situation is called hypersensitivity or “allergy”.

The harmless material attacked by the immune system is called an “allergen”, and it can trigger a response by coming into contact with the skin, the respiratory tract or the digestive tract. The allergic response can range from an unpleasant reaction to death by sudden anaphylactic shock.

The list of potential allergens is enormous and also includes dogs. In this case, when the allergic person comes into contact with a dog, a respiratory response is triggered, usually causing swelling, redness, itchiness, runny eyes and nose, and difficulty breathing. Many people think the reaction is to the dog’s fur, however in fact, three dog allergens have been identified, and fur isn’t one of them. The allergens are urine, saliva and dander (tiny flakes of dead skin).

These allergens can be found anywhere, but are more abundant in places where dogs live. Because there is a direct relation between shedding and dander, we are often under the impression that fur is the culprit, and indeed, dogs that shed less are known to be less troublesome for people suffering from a dog allergy. Thus, breeds who tend to shed less are sometimes referred to “hypoallergenic” breeds, even though any allergologist will tell you that there is really no such thing.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) names a number of breeds who characteristically shed less, and that may be more suitable for people suffering from dog allergies. These include the American Hairless Terrier, the Afghan Hound, the Bichon Frise, the Chinese Crested, Schnauzers, Poodles and more. The Labradoodle (a cross between the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle), while not officially recognized by the AKC, is also popular for its “hypoallergenic” properties, because it has the Poodle’s coat type.

For any type of allergy, the most recommended way of managing the condition, is to minimize exposure. In the case of dog allergy, this may not be practicable nor desirable. Treatment with anti-allergic medication might be an option, and some people may benefit from desensitization therapy. An allergologist should be consulted before making any decisions.

If you have been diagnosed with dog allergy, and are still interested in living with a dog, here are some tips to reduce exposure:

  • Feed you dog with a high-quality dog food with adequate and balanced levels of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. This will assist in reducing dander and shedding.
  • Wash your dog every week or two in order to remove dander.
  • Make sure living areas are well aired and use air conditioning equipped with advanced filtration systems.
  • Refrain from sleeping in the same room as the dog.
  • Vacuum often with a good vacuum cleaner.
  • Permanently remove rugs from the house.

 

In summary, if you have a dog allergy, before you give up on having a dog in your life, consult an allergologist about your options.