Can Allergy Sufferers Keep Dogs?

dog allergy

What dog lovers should know

  1. First the medical: There is no such thing as dog hair allergy. Because it is not the dog hair itself, but certain allergens that can cause allergic reactions in humans. These are found in dander, saliva or urine of the animal.
  2. It is a rumor that there are allergen-free dog breeds. Only dog breeds exist whose allergy potential is lower.
  3. Unfortunately, tricks like frequent hand washing or special cleanliness of the dog do not help. If the doctor has diagnosed an allergy, however, hyposensitization can bring relief – both for allergy sufferers who already have an animal and for those who want to get a dog.
  4. However, there are also cases in which the allergy leads to chronic asthma. However, in such severe diseases of the allergist, unfortunately, only one thing helps: separation from the dog.

These allergens are responsible for dog allergy

Every dog secretes allergens. “He releases them into the environment through his saliva, dander or urine,” explains Sonja Lämmer of the German Allergy and Asthma Association (DAAB). So the allergens are not directly in his hair, but end up there only in a roundabout way. That is why there is actually no dog hair allergy, but a dog allergy.

The dog’s allergens are called Can f 1, Can f 2, Can f 3 and Can f 5. “Can f 1 is mainly responsible for 50 to 90 percent of the problems in humans,” says the expert from the DAAB advisory team. This allergen causes a malfunction of the body’s immune system in some people. The allergy sufferer reacts hypersensitively to the dog allergens, which are actually harmless, as if they posed a serious threat to his body.

Consequences for allergic dog owners

The consequences are burning, itching and watering eyes. Rhinitis, sneezing and coughing irritation as well as scratching in the throat also often occur. In addition, allergic skin reactions such as swelling and redness, concentration and sleep disorders may also occur. In more severe cases, allergy sufferers experience shortness of breath and allergic bronchial asthma. What is particularly stressful is that while hay fever sufferers usually only notice the symptoms of their pollen allergy when the allergy-causing plants are in bloom, those affected by a dog allergy are at risk all year round.

Incidentally, there is no rule as to when a person develops hypersensitivity. A dog allergy is rarer than an allergy to cats, and dog allergens are also considered less aggressive than cat allergens. Nevertheless, dog allergy can appear suddenly even after years of no health problems with pet ownership. People who are already sensitive (to dust mites or pollen, for example) are at increased risk.

dog allergy

Measures. Dog allergy – what really helps

All dogs have the same allergens. However, they release them to the environment to different degrees depending on the breed or coat structure.

Medication against the allergy

You can reduce the allergic reactions with medication and contain them a little in the short term. However, this should not be a permanent solution. Because if you ignore symptoms such as a cold or concentration problems, you run the risk of developing chronic bronchitis.

In this case, experts speak of a “floor change”: The allergy expands from the nose, the upper respiratory tract, to the lower tract, the bronchial tubes. Over time, this develops into the typical symptoms of asthma with coughing and shortness of breath. In the same way, the mild initial skin irritations can develop into a constantly itching neurodermatitis. Unfortunately, not a pretty outlook.

Special cleanliness only helps to a limited extent

Tricks like frequent hand washing or special cleanliness with the dog help unfortunately also only conditionally. It is true that the symptoms can be alleviated by minimizing contact with the allergens. This applies not only to contact with the dog itself, but also to all objects such as dog blankets or baskets that the animal uses on a daily basis.

And of course, the four-legged roommate should no longer be allowed to lie in bed with you or lounge on the couch. Plenty of fresh air can also help a little – so go out diligently for a walk. However, all this is not really sufficient. Also that a thorough fur care dog and owner healthwise again better with one another would let, is unfortunately usually a mistake.

Treatment by hyposensitization

“Who feels the first symptoms of a dog allergy, may not ignore it out of love for its animal , warns the DAAB Fachfrau. Then only the course helps to the Allergologen. The clarifies by test doubtless whether the own dog is the trigger for the health impairments.

The only effective treatment is then a hyposensitization, knows Oberärztin Ruëff. There is a standardized extract for this, with which all dog allergy sufferers are treated. The therapy is similar to that for pollen allergy sufferers, for example. The doctor irritates the allergy sufferer’s immune system with small doses of the allergen (usually by applying it to the skin). Gradually, he increases the dose so that the body gets used to it and the allergic reaction decreases or even disappears completely in the long term. However, please do not expect an immediate cure here: hyposensitization can take several years and does not guarantee that the patient will be completely allergy-free afterwards.

Limits of hyposensitization

And: It is not suitable for every allergy sufferer. In the past it was even so that only certain occupational groups were treated, for which the contact to the dog was existential, knows Lämmer. This applied, for example, to dog handlers in rescue services, the police or the armed forces. The main reason for the restriction was that research into animal allergies had not yet progressed as far as research into plant allergies. In the meantime, the limits no longer apply as a rule.

Nevertheless, allergists cannot treat all dog lovers: “Severely affected animal allergy sufferers sometimes also suffer from asthma,” explains LMU expert Ruëff. “This, of course, makes allergy treatment more dangerous. The rule of thumb in these cases is: The sicker a patient is, the worse he tolerates the treatment.” Therefore, she says, it is more advisable for allergy sufferers who are already struggling with asthma to avoid having a dog.

Dogs for allergy sufferers – a myth

There are no allergen-free dog breeds

Dogs for allergy sufferers – that’s what many plagued pet lovers are looking for. The bad news is: there are no truly allergen-free dog breeds. Also
dogs that do not shed , unfortunately, are not a way out. In scientific studies, researchers have found allergens in all breeds, albeit in significantly different amounts.

However, allergen potentials differ between individual dog breeds. For example, short-haired animals such as the Jack Russell Terrier are said to have a higher allergen potential than long-haired ones.

Since the 1990s, Labradoodles and Goldendoodles have been bred and touted as dogs for allergy sufferers. The new crosses between Poodles and Labradors or Golden Retrievers were originally intended for blind allergy sufferers: the Poodle because it has no undercoat, does not change coat, and loses very little hair. Labrador and Golden Retriever, because they are particularly people-friendly. That is why the crossbreeds are considered so-called allergy dogs.

Separation from the dog as a pet?

So what to do if you have a constant runny nose despite treatment near dogs? The allergen must get out of the house.

If someone has had asthma before, you don’t know how the allergic reactions will develop. Maybe it will end up in asthma again and the patient will be on the oxygen tank.

There are cases, where allergy sufferers develop only very moderate symptoms or are treated very successfully: Now and then one has then perhaps red eyes, and perhaps drips or sniffles times the nose. So, however, nothing speaks against a long relationship of dog and man – despite allergy.

Autumn Jolley
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