Allergy to dogs: symptoms, hair, saliva, solutions, desensitization

The dog, man’s best friend? 33% of homes in France have oneaccording to a study published in April 2022, conducted by the CSA Institute, on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the Canine Center (source 1). dog allergy yet more and more Frenchmen are influencing. How is it expressed? What support? Explanations by Dr. Luc Colas, allergist and clinical immunologist at the University Hospital of Nantes, responsible for scientific mission within the Association of Young Allergists in France (AJAF).

Dog hair is not responsible for the allergy

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, it is not dog hair itself that triggers allergic symptoms. “It’s actually a dog allergy associated with exposure to certain allergenic proteins carried by dog ​​dandruff : their hair, their nails, their dandruff (remnants of dead skin) “, emphasizes Dr. Colas.

Specifically, when the dog licks itself, it deposits more or less significant amounts of saliva on the hair, causing allergic reactions. And the doctor clarifies:cat dandruff is often more reactogenic than dog dandruff“.

Beware of cross-allergies

It is possible to be allergic only to dogs, or only to cats. But it is also possible to be allergic to dogs and cats. In this case, the allergy often extends to other animals, such as rodents and horses. We’ll talk about thencross-allergy.

Allergy to dogs: what symptoms should warn?

Allergy to dogs can cause many symptoms, associated with:

  • to one allergic conjunctivitis (watery, itchy, red eyes),
  • to one allergic rhinitis (stuffy, itchy, runny nose with successive sneezing),
  • or, to a lesser extent, allergic asthma (shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, dry cough).
  • From skin symptoms (pushing urticaria or worsening of atopic eczema) can also be alarming, although these symptoms are less common.

These symptoms can occur in different contexts:

  • in the direct presence of the dog ;
  • under indirect contact (depositing allergens on the furniture, linen or floor of a room, even on the clothes of a dog owner that we meet regularly, etc.);
  • After one intermittent contact (after a visit to dog owner friends for example).

When and which doctor to consult?

In case of symptoms or doubts about the cause of the allergy, consult your doctor. He will refer you to an allergist if necessary.

Allergies to dogs can be an opportunity to detect asthma that is not or poorly taken care of. “As soon as the breathing function is activatedyou need to consult an allergist ”, insists Dr. Colas.

Before considering treatment, you must first make sure it is actually a dog allergy. If you sneeze as soon as your companion approaches you, it does not necessarily mean that you are allergic to it. He may have wandered outside and be a carrier of allergenic pollen or mites. When in doubt, always start by consulting a doctor before rushing for medicines that are freely available at the pharmacy.

The diagnosis is mainly based on analysis of the patient’s symptoms. Secondly allergy tests can guide the doctor:

  • skin test, known, also called prik test with standardized extracts
  • blood tests (specific IgE prescribed by the allergist)

These tests are used to screen for immune memory associated with an immediate allergy. A positive result does not necessarily mean that you are allergic. Some people have prick tests or specific IgE without symptoms, the allergy doctor specifies.

The allergy is declared when there is a direct causal link between “allergic” symptoms and immune memory.

Can a dog allergy go away on its own?

The more we are exposed to our animals, the more we tend to desensitize naturally.“, Confirms Dr. Colas.

Why does it sometimes take time to trigger symptoms?

We are not born allergic, we become one. We come into the world with a capital of tolerance to allergens and over time, without really knowing why, our body loses this tolerance and the allergy takes over. A phenomenon that explains why some people trigger a sudden allergy, after several years of being with their animals.

Man or woman ? Hypoallergenic? Choosing the right dog when you are allergic

The size of the dog, or the length of its hair, has no bearing on the allergy.

What about so-called “hypoallergenic” dog breeds?

No dog breed is 100% allergy friendly. Some people lose less hair or produce less allergenic proteins, but that does not mean that they do not cause an allergic reaction “, insists Dr. Colas, who remembers that within the same breed, each person’s allergenic potential varies depending on factors that can not be predetermined.

If you are allergic to dogs, or if you have an allergic background, and still want to adopt one, several breeds may be interesting, for a certain price:

  • poodle,
  • schnauzeren,
  • shih tzu,
  • basenji,
  • kerry blue terrier,
  • Maltese bichon
  • or the Portuguese Water Dog.

“Whatever you choose (purebred dog or not), to avoid the risk of being abandoned, take the time to meet your future companion several times: play with him, carry it, feed it and check if you trigger any immediate symptoms. If not, go home with your clothes on for a while. Repeat the operation several times before committing. If you do not observe any reaction, it is rather a good sign “, advises Dr. Colas.

How do you live with a dog when you are allergic to it?

A number of solutions allow you to live peacefully with your dog, without risking worsening your symptoms. spoiler, we will have to invest in cleaning. Our advice:

  • Ventilate your interior daily;
  • Invest in one air purifier and in a vacuum cleaner with bag and HEPA filter (high efficiency for airborne particles);
  • Restrict the dog’s access to certain rooms in the house (especially the bedroom and the sofa);
  • Brush your dog outdoors and groom it regularlyif you are used to it, knowing that allergen levels will only drop for 24 hours;
  • Prefers smooth floors (parquet, tiles) over carpets and rugs;
  • Roll your clothes to remove hair (also effective on sofa covers, pillows, etc.)

Finally, do not forget that wash your hands after touching your companion.

What medicine should you take?

The treatment is defined in good understanding between the patient and his doctor. Firstly, antihistamines, nasal sprays or eye drops can overcome ENT and eye symptoms. “They are not effective at all in cases of bronchospasm”, emphasizes the allergist, who, however, recommends the use of ventolin (Salbutamol) for rapid relief of respiratory symptoms). In case of respiratory symptoms, it will be necessary to make an appointment with an allergist to assess the respiratory function and the need for basic treatment.

What about desensitization?

Desensitization, or Iallergen immunotherapy, can be considered for adults and children, from 4/5 years. “We first assess the relationship between benefits and limitations,” explains Dr. Colas. Specifically, desensitization will be of interest dog owners who have not developed a spontaneous tolerance towards their animals and / or the presence of asthma. Desensitization then aims to restore the body’s tolerance to dog allergens. “However, the effectiveness of desensitization to dog dandruff is less compared to that of dust mites, pollen or even cats.

The treatment lasts almost four years. It consists of administering, every day (morning or evening), extracts of cat dander, in the form of drops. Purpose: to make the immune system aware of allergenic proteins. “The first results are noticeable in the first 3 to 6 months of treatment,” states the specialist.

Treatment is then optimized according to the development of the clinical symptoms: the doses are gradually increased to avoid nuisances such as tingling under the tongue or throat. And the allergist to reassure: “In the long run, it has never been shown to have a detrimental effect on the incidence of other diseases. It is a treatment that has more benefits than risks.“.

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