If you’ve been known to get itchy, sneeze, or have respiratory issues when you’re around dogs, you’re probably allergic to them. While such a condition might be relatively minor to some people, others may experience severe symptoms and complications when around dogs. Luckily, some dogs like the Maltese are touted as hypoallergenic—and by the technical definition of “hypoallergenic dog,” they are—but there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog; just a less allergenic dog than is typical.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
Dog allergies are caused by a hypersensitive reaction to the Can f 1 protein found in dogs’ saliva, skin cells, and urine. This protein is generally harmless, but if someone has dog allergies, their immune system will react to the protein as if it were an invading pathogen.
Can f 1, and the reciprocal Fel d 1, in cats can cause serious health complications for people who are allergic to them. Signs of pet allergies can be as mild as skin itchiness or as severe as anaphylaxis—which is a serious, sometimes life-threatening, condition where the airways constrict to the point that the person cannot breathe. If not remedied, they will go into anaphylactic shock and die.
What Is a Hypoallergenic Dog?
We’ll start by defining the word “hypoallergenic.” When a creature or substance is considered “hypoallergenic,” it must be an allergen containing a substance that has been altered not to evoke an allergic reaction.
A hypoallergenic dog sheds less of the proteins that cause allergic reactions in its human companions. However, less protein shedding is not the same as not clearing the protein. Hypoallergenic dogs still produce and shed the Can f 1 protein that is associated with the presence of dog allergies.
Truthfully, there is no such thing as a fully hypoallergenic dog. Hypoallergenic dogs can still produce severe allergic reactions in people with highly sensitive allergies. The only way to ensure that a person with dog allergies does not have an allergic reaction is not to have a dog.
What Treatments Are There for Dog Allergies?
There are many treatments on the market for dog allergies. If you’re allergic to dogs but can’t bear the thought of not having one, consider some of the more permanent available treatments. Unfortunately, these treatments are rarely covered by American health insurance as they’re deemed elective and cosmetic. After all, no one needs to own a dog, according to the insurance companies.
Options for treatment include allergy medication, which can be purchased over the counter or prescribed in higher doses by a physician. You could also look into allergen injection therapy, an up-and-coming treatment for people with cat or dog allergies.
When a patient undergoes allergy shots, they’re injected with a dose of the deactivated allergen. This may cause mild symptoms but will not endanger the patient’s life, like exposure to the allergen. The injection is done weekly for three to five years, allowing the patient’s immune system to build up a tolerance for the allergen and alleviate their symptoms in the long term.
However, these injections are not failsafe. There are reports that after completing the therapy regimen, some people’s symptoms returned years later, and they had to return to the doctor for another round of booster shots.
What Else Can I Do to Cope with My Dog Allergies?
If you absolutely must have a dog, other options for allergy sufferers looking to cut down on their symptoms. Many pet product companies sell things that can help reduce your dog’s dander shedding.
Dander shampoos and wipes can help reduce the dander your dog produces and sheds into its environment. Regularly brushing your dog can also help reduce how much dander is shed, not by lowering the dander itself but by lowering how much fur coated in the dander from your dog’s skin and self-licking is shed around your home.
It’s also recommended that people who are allergic to their pets restrict their pet’s access to certain house rooms to lessen their allergic reactions in these spaces. Commonly, pets are prohibited from accessing the bedrooms of allergic people so they can sleep more easily without severe rhinitis and congestion.
While it can be devastating to find out that you’re allergic to your beloved pet, there is recourse for those who just don’t feel like they can go without them. Whether you decide to pursue allergy shots or something less invasive like dander baths, we hope you can find a living situation that works for you and your dog!