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Dog allergies? Being Specific Matters

Love dogs, but think you can’t have one because you’re allergic to them? It might be worth digging a little deeper to check your specific allergen.

Just because a lot of allergic symptoms happen around furry animals, it’s not always true that allergies are fur related. Many sensitivities are to an animal’s urine, saliva and/or dander – and it’s these things that can trigger sensitive immune systems to react.

Dog breeds that don’t shed or are hairless are mistakenly believed to be “hypoallergenic”. However, most of the credible commentary around this suggests that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.

To date, six specific canine allergens have been identified. Humans can be allergic to one or more of them, but perhaps not all of them. One example is that male dogs produce a protein called Can f 5 in the prostate that spreads to the dog’s fur and skin when they urinate. These proteins are very lightweight and easily disperse through the air as the animal moves around, and from there, settle on furniture, clothes and carpets.

“Up to 30% of people who are allergic to dogs are actually allergic to one specific protein that’s made in the prostate of a dog,” said Dr Lakiea Wright, an allergist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.1

If you are within this group of people, it could mean you can have a female dog (or neutered male) as a companion dog when previously thought not possible. 

When you present for allergy testing with an Allergists, they will usually test for the general allergen. They can also refine that diagnosis by looking at more specific proteins. It is from this refined diagnosis, there may be clues that indicate a particular protein allergy. 

If you believe you have a dog allergy, see an allergist for a full diagnosis of the situation. In the meantime, there are really only commonsense approaches to try to limit exposure to suspected allergens.

Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

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1.”Allergic to dogs? It may only be the males”. CNN, January 15, 2020,