Allergy to dogs: symptoms, hair, saliva, solutions, desensitization

Is a dog man’s best friend? 33% of houses in France have oneaccording to a survey published in April 2022 by the CSA Institute on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the Canine Center (source 1). dog allergy but affects more and more French people. How does it manifest itself? What kind of support? Explanations by Dr. Luc Col, allergist and clinical immunologist at the University Hospital of Nantes, responsible for the scientific mission within the Association of Young Allergists of France (AJAF).

Dog hair is not the cause of allergies

Contrary to popular belief, dog hair itself does not cause allergic symptoms. “Allergy to dogs actually associated with exposure to certain allergenic proteins carried by canine dander : their hair, their nails, their scales (remnants of dead skin),” emphasizes Dr. Kolas.

Specifically, when a dog licks himself, he secretes a more or less reactogenic amount of saliva on his coat, which causes allergic reactions. And the doctor says:Cat dander is often more reactogenic than dog dander.“.

Beware of Cross Allergy

Allergies can be only to dogs or only to cats. But it is also possible to be allergic to dogs and cats. However, allergies often extend to other animals, such as rodents and horses. Then we talk aboutcross allergy.

Allergy to dogs: what symptoms should alert?

Dog allergies can cause a variety of symptoms related to:

Finally, in some severe cases, contact with the allergen can cause bronchial asthma (dry irritating cough, shortness of breath).

These symptoms can occur in a variety of contexts:

  • in the direct presence of the dog ;
  • with indirect contact (deposition of allergens on the furniture, linen or floor of the room, even on the clothes of the owner of the dog with whom we meet regularly, etc.);
  • after intermittent contact (for example, after visiting friends of dog owners).

When and to what doctor to address?

In case of symptoms or doubts about the origin of the allergy, consult a doctor. If necessary, he will refer you to an allergist.

Dog allergies can be an opportunity to discover asthma that is not cared for or poorly cared for. “As soon as the breathing function is activatedyou should consult an allergist,” insists Dr. Kolas.

Before starting treatment, you must first Make sure it’s really a dog allergy. If you sneeze as soon as your interlocutor approaches you, this does not necessarily mean that you are allergic to him. Maybe he went outside and be a carrier of allergenic pollen. When in doubt, always start with a consultation with your doctor before rushing to get medicines that are freely available at the pharmacy.

The diagnosis is mainly based on the analysis of the patient’s symptoms. Secondly, screening tests can refer a doctor:

  • blood tests (IgE)
  • and skin tests also known as the prick test.

These tests are used to screen short-term immune memory. A positive result does not necessarily mean you have an allergy. Some people have an allergic background, but the symptoms do not develop, clarifies the allergist.

Specific skin tests can also determine a causal relationship between allergic symptoms and delayed immune memory.

Can dog allergies go away on their own?

The more we are exposed to our animal, the more we naturally desensitize.‘ confirms Dr. Kolas.

Why does it sometimes take time to cause symptoms?

We are not born with allergies, we become them. We come into the world with the capital of tolerance to allergens and over time, without really knowing why, our body loses this tolerance and allergies take over. A phenomenon that explains why some people develop sudden allergies after years of contact with their animal.

Male or female? Hypoallergenic? Choosing the right dog for allergies

The size of the dog or the length of its coat does not matter with allergies. On the other side, unneutered males are much more allergenic than females or their neutered counterparts. As ? Their sebaceous and salivary glands secrete more Fel d 1 due to higher testosterone levels. Therefore, it is better to sterilize the animal.

What about the so-called “hypoallergenic” dog breeds?

No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic.. Some shed less hair or produce less allergenic proteins, but that doesn’t mean they don’t cause an allergic reaction,” Dr. Cola insists, pointing out that members of the same breed allergenic potential of each person varies depending on factors that cannot be predetermined.

If you are allergic to dogs or have an allergic background and still want to get a dog, you may be interested in several breeds at a certain price:

  • poodle,
  • schnauzer,
  • shih tzu,
  • basenji,
  • kerry blue terrier,
  • maltese bichon
  • Or the Portuguese Water Dog.

“To avoid the risk of being abandoned, take the time to meet with your future companion several times: play with him, wear it, feed it and monitor for symptoms. If not, go home in your clothes for a while. Repeat the operation as often as possible: if you do not observe any reaction, this is rather a good sign, ”advises Dr. Kolas.

How to live with a dog if you are allergic to it?

A number of solutions will allow you to live peacefully with your dog without the risk of aggravating the symptoms. spoiler, we will have to invest in cleaning. Our advice:

  • Ventilate the interior daily;
  • Invest in air purifier and in vacuum cleaner with bag and HEPA filter (high efficiency on suspended particles);
  • Limit the dog’s access to certain rooms in the house (especially the bedroom and sofa);
  • Brush your dog outside and groom him regularlyif you are used to it, knowing that the level of the allergen will only decrease within 24 hours;
  • Carpets prefer smooth floors (parquet, tiles);
  • Roll up clothing to remove hair (also effective on sofa covers, cushions, etc.)

Finally, don’t forget Wash your hands regularly after touching someone.

A bet on specific pieces, “anti-allergens”?

There is no dog food that can artificially reduce levels of allergens produced by dog ​​dander.

What medicines to take?

Treatment is determined by good understanding between the patient and his doctor. First of all, antihistamines can overcome ENT and eye symptoms. “On the other hand, they are not at all effective in the event of bronchospasm,” emphasizes, however, the allergist, who recommends the use of ventolin (Salbutamol) for rapid relief of respiratory symptoms). nasal sprays and tears can also relieve symptoms in the eyes and nose.

How about desensitization?

Desensitization, or immunotherapy, can be considered for adults and children from 5 years. “We first evaluate benefit/limitation ratio, explains Dr. Kolas. If sufferers do not plan to be separated from their pet or take lifelong antihistamines, desensitization may be offered, which aims to restore the body’s tolerance to certain allergens.

In fact, the treatment lasts almost four years. It consists of administering several allergen extracts every day (morning or evening) in the form of drops. Purpose: to familiarize the immune system with allergenic proteins. “The first results are noticeable in the first 3-6 months treatment,” says the expert.

The treatment is then optimized according to the development of clinical symptoms: doses are gradually increased to avoid inconveniences such as tingling under the tongue or in the throat. And the allergist assures: “In the long term, it has never been shown to have a detrimental effect on the occurrence of other diseases. It is a treatment that offers more benefits than risks“.

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