It may be problematic to suffer from a dog allergy, but the symptoms are often successfully treated with allergy medicines. If you are experiencing problems in spite of treatment you should speak with your doctor regarding other options. There is no reason for you to have a lower quality of life just because of your allergy.
People who are allergic to dogs will develop problems when the allergy provoking substances from an animal, sticks to the mucous membranes of their eyes, nose, skin or lungs. The symptoms of dog allergy are the same as of cat allergy or other pet allergies:
The problems may appear both from direct contact with a pet, for example from petting an animal, or getting licked by a dog, and from indirect contact, just being in the same room as a dog. Most reactions occur when a person with an allergy meets dogs indoors but the problems might also appear outdoors. It is even possible for sensitive individuals to experience symptoms just by being in public spaces where there are no dogs, like schools, day-care centres, buses, hotels and work places. That is because allergens from dogs and other pets are easily spread through the hair and clothes of pet owners.
For children with dog allergies the symptoms often get worse during the school year, when kids share a classroom with dog owning friends. Contact exposure to allergy provoking substances may lead to chronically inflamed mucous membranes of the child, and prolonged problems with the nose and eyes. A constantly congested nose may in turn lead to asthmatic problems, because of more allergens going straight to the respiratory tract as the child is forced to breathe through the mouth.
To have a dog of their own is something that's on top of many children's wish list, but if you are allergic it might be best not to have a dog at home. As opposed to hay fever, pet allergy is not seasonal and being exposed, every day, all year around, to something you are not tolerating might cause mild problems of the airways and in a worst-case scenario severe congestion of the nose and asthma. Even though some allergic individuals seem to tolerate certain dog breeds better than others there are unfortunately no absolutely hypoallergenic dogs.
Contrary to what many believe, it is not the actual fur (hair) of the dog that's causing allergic reactions - but proteins secreted from the urine, saliva, skin cells and sebaceous gland of the dog. But since the proteins are sticking to the fur, the fur itself also becomes allergy provoking.
Since the 1970s it has been known to scientists that all breeds of dogs carry the same main allergen, called Can f 1. Newer research, however, suggests that the levels of the allergen vary, both between different breeds and individuals. A French research group that was examining the allergen levels of eight common dog breeds found that the Labradors had the lowest mean production of allergens, while Poodles had the highest. The allergen content of Poodles was on average eight times higher than that of Labradors, but the variation within each breed was high. The Labrador with the highest level of allergen was, for example, positioned on levels eight times that of the Poodle with the lowest allergen content of its breed. This makes it difficult to say if certain breeds of dogs are more allergy provoking than others. The study also showed that the allergen levels of male dogs were higher than those of female dogs, and that dogs with eczema were producing slightly more allergens. On the other hand, it did not matter at all if the dog had short or long fur.
UK/GEN/15/0057b Date of preparation: December 2015