Update on dog allergy

A few years ago, I wrote about whether there really was such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog. The answer was “sort of.” Breeds claimed to be hypoallergenic, like a Bichon or Poodle, produce just as much dog allergen per square inch of body-surface area as Golden Retrievers. But Goldens are bigger than Bichons, so one Bichon produces less allergen than one Golden. Also, Bichons and Poodles shed a lot less than Goldens, so the dog allergen stays on the dog, and doesn’t get spread all over the house.

What if you are allergic to your dog? It’s best not to have the pet you’re allergic to, but dogs become part of the family, and it can be hard to part with them. Allergy shots work great for dog allergy, if your allergist is following the latest Practice Parameters for Allergen Immunotherapy. Unfortunately, that’s a big “if.” Most allergists only test for one dog allergen, either Acetone Precipitated (AP) dog, or dog epithelium. AP dog is great because it has about 50 times more of the most important dog allergen than dog epithelium has. But using it alone isn’t good enough. AP dog doesn’t have any of the minor dog allergens. That’s why we test for and treat for both AP dog and dog epithelium (that’s also why we test for and treat for both cat hair and cat pelt, but that’s a subject for another day). I can’t tell you how many patients we have seen where their previous allergist told them, “You’re not allergic to dog,” and then find out they’re just allergic to the other dog allergen.

Sometimes, the patient who has allergy symptoms around the dog really isn’t allergic to dog at all. Dogs go outside to walk and do their business, and their fur is really good at trapping pollen grains and mold spores and bringing them inside. And mostly-inside dogs who use the same soft bed usually share that bed with lots and lots of dust mites. Dust mites aren’t picky; they don’t mind eating shed human skin or dog dander. Dust mite-avoidance tips should be applied to the dog’s bed, too; wash the bed covering in hot water once a week and prevent the humidity from getting too high where the dog sleeps.

If possible, keep your bedroom free of pets. If that’s not possible, then at least keep the dog out of your bed. And if in spite of the avoidance measures listed above you are still having allergy symptoms when around your dog, then it’s time to make an appointment to see us.

No one nose allergies like we do.™

Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs.

David B. Engler, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI Dr. Engler is a board-certified allergist and immunologist who hails from Houston, Texas. He was recently voted Best Allergist/Immunologist in Houston by H Texas Magazine, an honor based on peer and reader voting, as well as a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly Magazine.

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