Dog Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Prognosis

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a girl who's allergic to dog

1Overview

Dogs have been with us since, in the early centuries, they helped humanity with their work, retrieve things, for companionship, for protection, and as a friend. The first dogs were bred for hunting because they have a sharp sense of smell and sight. Some researchers have found out that the dogs are descendants of the wolves specifically the gray wolves.

Through the years, the dogs have evolved and became domesticated, living with humans. Common breeds of dogs can be seen in animal shops and shelters like Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Bulldogs, Poodles and a lot more.

These breeds have specific characteristics like having a special sense of smell that can help police and soldiers find perpetrators and even bombs. Other breeds of dogs are good at helping people in their everyday lives and even those who have special needs, they are called service dogs.

Most of the people are dog lovers that they have two or three or maybe even more dogs in their house but some are less fortunate to have one because of some conditions that are restricting them to have one, dog allergies are one of them.

Dog allergies are classified from mild to severe cases. Some people may have a runny nose as a reaction to the dog or even an anaphylactic shock. These can be life-threatening and can lead to a decision whether to keep the dog or not and this can be a heartbreaking process for a person who loves dogs.

2Causes

The actual cause of dog allergies are proteins that are produced from their bodies and go into the skin of the dog. When the dog sheds the tiny particles of their dead skin, these can become airborne and can be inhaled by humans.

The Dander (the dead skin of the dogs), saliva and the urine of the dog can cause a reaction in people that have sensitive immune systems. The dog is not the allergen itself. However, the proteins that are found in the dander and dust, which are collected in the fur and go to the air, are the ones causing the allergic reaction. These allergens can be found anywhere in the house – the furniture, carpet, walls and anywhere the dog comes in contact to.

It is true that some people are more allergic to certain dog breeds than others.
This is because of the proteins that are produced in their systems. The amount and the type can be factors on how mild or severe the reaction of the human is.

3Symptoms

People can have a mild allergic reaction to a severe hypersensitive response called anaphylactic shock. Some may experience a runny nose similar to a cold when exposed to an allergen like the danger of the dog.  Other symptoms may include:

  • Itchy nose – This symptom may be associated with a runny nose.
  • Frequent sneezing – If a foreign body enters the upper respiratory system, the natural reaction of the body is to take it out in the form of sneezing.
    In this case, the system is highly sensitive to the dander causing it to overreact leading to frequent sneezing.
  • Teary eyes – The dander can also go to the eyes causing the membranes swell.
  • Coughing – When the dander goes into the lower respiratory system, the reaction of the body is to cough it all out, thus, frequent coughing can be seen.
  • Shortness of breath – In some other cases, the membranes of the respiratory tract may become inflamed, causing restrictions in breathing
  • Asthma attack – Those with asthma may be triggered as can cause severe breathing problems.

Skin reactions may be seen if the dog licks the person. Rashes on the face, nose, neck,
and even on the arm will be present and these can lead to eczema, a form of skin allergy. Studies show that exposing a baby to dogs can help prevent an allergy on these pets.

4Diagnosis

There are various tests to determine if a person has allergies to dogs like a skin test, skin prick test, and certain blood tests. A complete history of the patient with symptoms will help the doctor determine the proper treatment, questions may range from:

  • Presence of pets in the house
  • How long did the patient experience these symptoms?
  • What symptoms does the patient have?

Blood Test

The blood contains immunoglobulin-like Immunoglobulin E (IgE). This is found in the blood system and involves the antibodies that are produced when an allergen enters the body. These substances enter the cells that produce chemicals, leading to an allergic reaction to the foreign body. The doctor then will order a blood test and detect elevated levels of Immunoglobulin E in the blood.

Skin prick test or allergy test

The doctor then will prick the skin usually on the forearm or back with a needle containing a controlled small amount of protein chemical present from a dog. The skin is then observed if there are any reactions like swelling and redness at the site.
The result usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to appear, if there are any reactions present.

5Treatment

Medications are prescribed to minimize the symptoms of an allergy like antihistamines but the best treatment of an allergy is the avoidance of the cause – the dog. However,
it’s always remembering to consult with the physician before taking any medication.
A licensed doctor should only prescribe the drugs. Avoid self-medication without getting a doctor’s advice.

Having a pet in the house can aggravate the allergy and can cause serious complications if it’s not addressed properly. It is also best to take note the onset of the symptom and prior activities that you did to determine if it is a dog or even a pollen or just dust.

Antihistamines

These drugs inhibit the histamines to bind with the receptors sites called the H1 receptors, which are found throughout the body. They also bind to H2 receptors, which are found in the gastric area. When the Histamine binds to a receptor it will cause an allergic reaction. The antihistamines stop this process by binding to the receptors sites instead of the histamine.

Leukotriene modifiers

Leukotriene modifiers bind to the receptor cells in the body to inhibit the leukotrienes, preventing the allergic reaction.

Decongestants

These drugs help relieve and decongest the nasal passage by constricting the blood vessels to reduce the swelling in the mucosa. Chlorpheniramine, brompheniramine, fexofenadine, and loratadine are good examples of decongestants.

Cromolyn sodium

This drug comes in the form of a nasal spray and it’s best used before an allergic reaction. The cromolyn sodium acts on the mast cells to prevent the production of histamines.

Nasal corticosteroids

These drugs work by reducing the inflammation of the mucosa in the nasal area.

6Prevention

The way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the known allergen and have the medications ready at all times for emergency purposes. Allergies are not specific to any age group – both children and adults may have allergies to a specific food, pollen, animals or even dust. So, here are some preventive measures to prevent and lessen the occurrence of an allergic reaction.

  • Have a medicine ready in case of an emergency and also take medicine an hour before going out to a place where there are dogs to prevent the onset of the allergic reaction.
  • Know beforehand if there are dogs present in places you’re supposed to visit like to a friend’s place. This will help you take preventive measures.
  • Do not approach, touch or kiss a dog if you have an allergy to them.

If you have a dog in your house, there are also some ways to prevent regular allergic reactions, including:

  • Set a specific place for the dog and restrict it from coming into your bedroom to prevent dander particles from settling in fixtures or the beddings.
  • Have an air purifier ready to filter the air in the house to prevent the dog’s dander to circulate in the room.
  • Clean the dog by regular bathing, if possible, to reduce the dander accumulating in the fur.
  • Wash your hands regularly to reduce dander inhalation.
  • Remove carpets that can harbor the dander and fur of the dog.
  • If you know that you are allergic to dogs, don’t buy or adopt one.
  • Have a regular checkup with your physician to check if there are any changes in your situation and help determine whether you have an allergy to a dog or other potential allergens like cats, pollen, and dust.
  • Cleaning the house regularly to prevent the accumulation of the dust particles including dander in the furniture and appliances.

7Prognosis

A dog owner who has an allergy to them may have a hard time in dealing with the situation. It entails either giving up the dog or opting not to own one.

Avoidance and proper self-care management can be advised to the owner if they do not want to give up their pets. Having the advancement of medicines and facilities, we can help the person deal with the situation and have a better quality of life of the person.