Allergies In Pets And People

Veterinary practitioners recognize allergic diseases in companion animals and are often asked to give advice to people with allergies to pets. Many people with minor allergies to pets want hypoallergenic dogs. Is there really such a thing?

When Pets Have Allergies

Respiratory, food, or contact allergens to which an animal has an allergic response enter an animal’s system. The system mounts an immune reaction to each of the allergens to which the animal is exposed. As the reactions continue, eventually a threshold is reached. Below this threshold, no clinical signs of disease are seen. Above this threshold, disease manifestations such as sneezing, difficulty breathing, rashes, and itching occur.

An animal’s sensitivity to allergies depends on where the threshold is. Some animals will react to the slightest exposure to allergens and others are normal unless the exposure is truly overwhelming. More sensitive animals with clinical disease manifestations require treatment. Thresholds do not apply to reactions to allergens such as penicillin, bee stings or peanuts, which can cause anaphylactic reactions a even death – for sensitized individuals.

Allergens can also have a cumulative effect. For example, a dog may be all right with a certain level of plant pollen or with a certain level of cigarette smoke in the air. Together, exposure to both of these allergens may exceed a dog’s tolerated threshold and clinical symptoms may occur.

Individual Treatment is Essential

Allergies are complicated and the most obvious rule accepted by those who deal in both animal and human allergic conditions is that there are no absolute generalizations to be made. Each individual must have their disease treated by controlling exposure to allergens and taking medications to try to eliminate clinical manifestations. If repeated exposure to a certain environment continually produces a negative response, either the environment must change or exposure cease.

Can Dogs Really Be Hypoallergenic?

Some people who are allergic to pets say they want to buy a “hypoallergenic pets”. While some breeds may cause little or no allergic reaction, no animal is completely hypoallergenic.

Even if a breed of dog is considered to be hypoallergenic, the title is relative. All animals will shed fur, lick themselves (which deposits saliva), and produce dander. People who are highly sensitive to a particular animal species will have reactions to exposure to any allergens of that species. Certain species of animals and breeds of dogs are referred to as ehypoallergenice because they produce less allergens and less sensitive people may be able to tolerate the allergen exposure.

Non-shedding dogs such as Shih Tzus, Bichon Frises, Poodles and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are examples of dog breeds considered to be hypoallergenic. These breeds must be groomed on a regular basis. This will also reduce the amount of allergens produced in the environment. Cats produce a lot of allergens and more people are allergic to cats. Rabbits are generally recognized as hypoallergenic. But there are exceptions to the rules! I personally know an individual who is fine with dogs but will go into anaphylactic shock if exposed to a rabbit.