Asthma Chest & Allergy Centre

A centre of excellence providing treatment of Asthma, Allergies and Chest Diseases since 1992

A Vet with dog allergy!!

Just a few days ago I met a couple at my clinic who were both veterinary surgeons and had brought their son to be seen by me. The parents were highly intelligent and erudite. The son had mild asthma.

As is usual, I asked the parents if there was any family history of allergy. The father said “I’m allergic to dogs”. I was quite surprised and said “Really!! You are a vet and you are allergic to dogs! How do you manage?” He said “I’ve noticed that I sneeze and cough badly only if the dog that has been brought to my clinic has a fungal skin infection”

It was an eye opener for me too. What is it about dogs with fungal skin infection that they can cause allergy to this person while other dogs cannot. Fungal skin infection means more shedding of skin. And that’s what causes allergy. Dog allergy is due to dog dander. Dander is flakes of dead shed skin. It is wrong to think that it is the dog’s hair that causes allergy. Hair is only the carrier of dander and saliva and urine. Dander, saliva and urine, in that order, are what cause dog allergy symptoms.

So we have busted one common myth about dog allergy and that is: dog hair causes allergy.

Another common myth centers around “Hypo allergic breeds of dogs“. Many dog allergic people, especially in USA, where 36% of the households have a dog, insist on keeping a dog. Hence many claims are made of hypo allergic breeds like certain terriers and poodles. These claims are false. There is no specific hypo allergic breed of dogs. Also, less hairy dogs are not necessarily less allergenic.

Do small dogs cause less allergy? The notion is attractive. Small dog means proportionally less shedding of skin flakes. Also smaller dogs are easier to bathe. Yes, there is some truth in this.

Many a times, dog allergy is suspected on the basis of symptoms. But on testing it is not there. The reason is that the dog is bringing inside pollens, which are in fact causing the allergy symptoms. Allergy to dogs can be very reliably tested and confirmed by doing a skin prick test (a kind of allergy test). In such a situation, removing the dog is not necessary.

So what should people with dog allergy do?

  1. Best is to not keep a dog or if you have one to give it a new home. I know, I know…. This is easier said than done!!
  2. Don’t allow the dog into the bedroom.
  3. Some other family member bathes the dog once a week.
  4. Vacuuming and HEPA filters in the bedroom help.