Allergies are the most widespread chronic conditions in the world. The good news is that allergies can be controlled if not beaten. The days are gone when allergies could keep you from what you most love –whether it’s the world outside, a dusty library or your beloved Fido.
Dog allergies are about half as frequent as cat allergies. Four out of five people who are allergic to animals are allergic to cats. Some suggest this is because cats lick themselves so much. Because cats are more likely to cause allergic reactions than are dogs, most of the research on pet allergies has been done on them.
Cat allergens have been detected in homes for months after the departure of the cat, and have even been discovered in the Antarctic, although no cats have ever been there! It has been found that long-haired cats tend to shed fewer allergens. It is not currently known if it’s true for dogs.
The days are also gone when doctors automatically advised their patients to “get rid of the dog.” More responsive practitioners understand that’s not even an option for people who depend on animals, such as farmers or people with disabilities.
Getting rid of animals is not even practical. Researchers in the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) discovered that pet allergens were present in every single one of 831 homes tested across the United States. This included homes of non-pet owners. 9% of the homes without a dog had high enough levels of allergens to cause asthma symptoms in asthmatics who were allergic to dogs.
The suggested explanation is that dog, and cat proteins are “sticky,” clinging to clothes and shoes. So, even if you find a dog another home, his allergens will remain. The vacuum samples from the study showed that couches had the highest concentrations of allergens, even in petless homes, suggesting that residents or visitors brought the allergen material in on their clothing and then plopped down on the couch.
Reaction & Complications
Animal dander causes the particular type of allergic reaction called perennial allergic rhinitis (sneezing and runny nose) and comes from breathing in airborne particles of the offending dander. Most people suffering this type of allergy don’t get eye inflammation, but nasal congestion that may block the Eustachian tubes in the ears and cause hearing problems, especially in kids.
Complications of pet allergy can include chronic sinus headaches and infections, and asthma. It’s not always easy, by the way, to tell the difference between perennial allergic rhinitis and recurring sinus infections and growths (polyps) inside the nose. And, someone could have all three at the same time. Dog allergies may take two or more years to develop. Most people allergic to dogs are also allergic to other things.
This means these same sticky proteins are everywhere – movie theater seats, clothing stores, airplane and train seats, even your allergist’s office.
Finding A Solution
The study also suggests that getting rid of the dog won’t solve the problem for these allergy sufferers. It is agonizing for families to have to remove their beloved pet, especially if several children are present in a household and only one is allergic. And, in fact, most pet owners (between 75% and 90%) do not “get rid of the dog.” They learn to live with it, and you can too. You can fight back, and you can win the allergy battle.
Part of the fighting is finding an allergist who will help you in your battle against pet dander without insisting you “get rid” of the pet. Not every allergist is so enlightened.
Hypoallergenic Dogs Are A Myth
Some dog breeds are considered “hypoallergenic”, or dog breeds that do not cause allergic reactions. The fact is that no such breed exists. Such an animal would have no saliva, no hair, no dander, and no urine. Different people are allergic to different proteins, and so, while some people might have no symptoms form a hairless dog, others who are allergic to proteins from the saliva will be just as allergic as ever.
All dogs, including hairless ones, produce dander. However, it is true that some breeds, because they are low-shedding or have a single coat, are less apt to cause severe symptoms than are hairier, heavier-coated breeds. Curly-coated and corded breeds do shed their hair, but their hair has a long life-span, so shedding is infrequent. In addition, the shed hair doesn’t fly around the room but clings to the cords that naturally form on the dog, thus producing fewer allergy symptoms than most breeds.