Do You Have an Allergy to Dog Saliva?

If you have an allergy to your dog, you may think that it's his fur or dander that's causing the problem. Although that is true for cat allergies, most dog allergies are caused by a protein, Canis familiaris allergen 1, in the dog's saliva.

Symptoms of Dog Allergy

Symptoms of dog allergy can include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems

Skin redness or rash may occur if a dog licks your skin. People who also have asthma may have an asthma attack from being exposed to a dog. The onset and severity of symptoms vary by individual. Some people have an allergic reaction as soon as they get close to a dog, while others require a few days of canine exposure for symptoms to develop.

How to Diagnose a Dog Allergy

If you suspect you have a dog allergy, contact your doctor for an appointment. He or she can conduct skin tests and allergy blood tests to determine whether there's a canine cause for your allergies.

The most common allergy skin test is the skin prick test. In this test, a few drops of allergen is placed on your skin (often on your back) and the skin is then pricked with a special needle. After about 20 minutes, the site is reviewed for signs of swelling or redness.

If the skin prick test does not produce a positive result, your doctor may use an intradermal skin test. This test requires that a small amount of allergen be injected into the outermost skin layer, then monitored for signs of swelling or redness.

An allergy blood test combines a sample of your blood with a sample of allergen in a laboratory. The resulting reaction is noted and reported to your doctor. At this time, blood tests are not as reliable as skin tests in determining the cause of allergies.

How to Treat a Dog Allergy

If you've been diagnosed with a dog allergy, the course of treatment that's frequently recommended is to stay away from dogs. This may not be practical, however, if you share your home with a dog, so here are some suggestions on how to manage your allergy and keep your dog.

  • Bathe the dog each week.
  • Keep the dog out of your bedroom. Leave your door closed and shut the bedroom air vents to prevent transfer of allergens from other parts of your home.
  • Use a HEPA-filter air cleaner in your bedroom.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to clean your home. Vacuum often.
  • Wipe him down with a wet washcloth or hand towel each day.

If you need to remove traces of a dog that no longer lives in your home, or if you're moving into a home that formerly had dogs, you will need to perform a thorough cleaning. Vacuum the hard-surface floors several times, change the furnace filter, have the air ducts professionally cleaned, wipe down the floors and steam-clean the carpets.

Some breeds may be less allergenic to some people. Discuss breed selection with your doctor and make arrangements to visit selected breeds in other dog owners' homes to determine whether a particular breed triggers your allergy symptoms.