Diagnosing Human Allergies to Dogs

People with a more sensitive immune system can develop allergies to dogs. Human allergies to dogs occur due to a protein that exists in the dog dander, saliva and urine. The allergies to dogs may be diagnosed judging by a few symptoms and by performing a few tests: intradermal testing or blood testing.

Symptoms of Allergies to Dogs

People with allergies to dogs will display various symptoms, which are more severe when a dog is present. The symptoms may vary in intensity, depending to the degree of sensitivity of each person, however some common symptoms of dog allergies include:

  • Skin itchiness
  • Skin rashes
  • Stuffed, itchy nose and sneezing
  • Dry coughing
  • Irritated or watery eyes
  • Breathing difficulties

These symptoms may also point to other types of allergies, so a proper diagnosis will be needed to determine if the allergies are a negative reaction to dog dander.

Intradermal Testing

Intradermal or skin testing can give a conclusive diagnosis in people that are allergic to dogs. The test will be performed using a reduced quantity of the glycoprotein Fel d1 (which is the main allergen and is present in dog dander, urine and saliva); this protein will be injected under the skin of the patient and the skin will be monitored. An allergic reaction should occur within 6 hours of the injection to confirm the diagnosis.

If the skin does not get red or swollen, the allergens are different than dog dander.

Blood Testing

As an alternative to skin testing, blood testing may be used to diagnose human allergies to dogs. Presently, there are 2 types of blood testing that may be performed to diagnose dog allergies:

  • The RAST (radioallergosorbent) test requires a sample of blood; the allergen (the glycoprotein) is added to the blood sample and the blood is tested for antibodies that form when the protein in present
  • The ELISA (enzyme immunoassay) is another way of detecting antibodies in a sample of blood, is similar to the RAST, but the RAST is more frequently used

Both the RAST and the ELISA tests will show clear results; if the antibodies are present, the patient is allergic to dogs. If the specific antibodies are absent, the patient should be tested for different allergens.

Treatment for Human Allergies to Dogs

The testing is significant to determine the treatment options. Ideally, people that are allergic to dogs should stay away from dogs; however, allergic pet owners don’t have this option. 

Presently, the best treatment option should be the allergy shots that will train the immune system to the allergen and develop no negative reactions. However, the allergy shots will only start being effective after 3 to 6 months of administration. In the meantime, antihistamines, steroids and other immunity boosters should be administered to keep the allergy symptoms at bay.

There are also some practical tips that may reduce the allergic reactions; a clean house, air purifiers and a regular dog grooming may reduce the allergens in the house and reduce the allergy symptoms.