Question about dog allergies
March 25, 2014 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Why am I only allergic to some dogs?

I have two dogs and I grew up with dogs, never had a problem with allergies. However, recently I've discovered that I'm allergic to some dogs.

Some time ago, I was playing with some mixed-breed puppies, and suffered the worst allergy attack of my life. I also get allergies when I'm around a friend's Yorkie (which are supposedly hypo-allergenic).

I am not, however, allergic to my dogs or any other dogs I come in contact with.

Could it be something about the fine hair of Yorkies and puppies?

Note: I am also mildly allergic to cats.

Thank you.
posted by eas98 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
One thing I discovered was what I thought was a life-long cat allergy, was in fact a virulent allergy to grasses and trees. The kitties I was interacting with were primarily outside cats, and they were bringing allergens in on their fur.

This may be the case with the dogs you've been hanging with.

If you have a question about it, go get tested in an allergist's office. It was eye-opening for me and I now spend my days with my kitty companions. Indoors. Away from nature.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:56 PM on March 25, 2014

The dogs that triggered an allergic reaction previous may not have been the source of the reaction but rather the vector by which an allegen was delivered. Do you recall if the pups in question lived in a particular environment that you may not have been compatible with?

For example, growing up I believed I was allergic to cats, but in actuality I was allergic to a grass spore that all the cats I encountered carried round in their fur. Every cat I met was an outdoor cat, so I didn't have alternate data with which to contrast the allergy attacks. Perhaps you're experiencing something similar.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:57 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yorkies are not considered hypoallergenic, technically no dogs are, some are just less prone to causing allergies.

Usually it's the dander, saliva, or urine that people are allergic to, and it isn't necessarily breed specific. You can be fine with one yorkie, but allergic to another.

In conclusion, potential allergens carried by dogs are a land of contrasts.
posted by HermitDog at 1:04 PM on March 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick answers. Interesting to consider, but before it goes too far in that direction, I'll address these issues:

The puppies had never been outside in their lives. I have no allergy issues with their mom, however.

The Yorkie and my dogs live in the same environment, indoors and out. I can pet and play with mine without issues, but if the Yorkie comes in contact with me, and I don't wash my hands, I will invariably end up with allergies.
posted by eas98 at 1:06 PM on March 25, 2014

and I don't wash my hands

Sounds like you've already got a simple and effective solution...

Kidding aside, the Yorkie is typically in your friend's house, correct?. It's probably some other allergen the dog is picking up from your friend's house.
posted by tckma at 1:12 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: I am allergic to dogs and their saliva is particularly itchy-making. This is purely anectdotal, but I have notice that dogs who lick themselves a lot give me more issues than dogs that have less grooming issues. For example, our dog goes through phases where she licks the daylights out of herself (she has grass allergies) and during those phases, I'm a lot more sneezy and will have a stronger reaction if I pet her and don't wash immediately. The rest of her life, I have only a mild reaction if I forget to wash.

So it could be that the Yorkie is particularly fond of licking. I know for sure that puppies get groomed and licked way more than adult dogs, so that could very well be your issue.

Also, I have discovered I have different reactions to the exact same allergen based on the snowball factor. If I'm exposed to an unfamiliar dog, while the oak trees are blooming, and shortly after I dusted the house, I'll have a greater reaction than if I just experienced the individual allergens one at a time. The problem is I rarely think about how many allergens I'm exposed to at a time and it almost always takes me by surprise.
posted by teleri025 at 1:16 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I came in to say exactly what teleri025 said. The saliva.

Bathing the dog helps.
posted by mochapickle at 1:30 PM on March 25, 2014

Allergies are triggered by proteins (found in saliva and dander) - not the fur/hair itself.

Some dogs are especially bad for allergy sufferers because they produce a lot of oil - this would be dogs with 'water resistant' type coats such as Labs or Goldens. The reason why water resistant type coats cause allergies is because the oils that keep the coat water resistant are full of proteins. These types of coats also shed constantly and so the dander/protein become scattered everywhere, and on everything (which means your chances of coming into direct contact with it are pretty high).

Some dogs are also especially bad for allergy sufferers because they produce a lot of dander - this would generally be your 'low' shedding type coats, such as Terriers. The reason why 'low' shedding coat types cause allergies is because the fur becomes trapped on the dog itself, along with dander, and must be stripped out (which generally doesn't happen for most pets. The reason why this coat type is sometimes well-tolerated by some allergy sufferers is because the dander and oils aren't being scattered around everywhere and can remain trapped in the dogs' fur, very close to its skin (which means minimal contact with direct skin or delicate nasal or ocular tissues).

There could be numerous reasons why some dogs trigger allergies and others don't. You could be reacting to something the dog is carrying on its fur - not the dog itself. You could also be gradually building up immunity to your own dogs (but not others) due to being constantly exposed to their specific proteins. There are numerous cases of people overcoming allergies by exposing themselves to minute amounts of the allergen on a regular basis.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:40 PM on March 25, 2014

My allergist told me when he diagnosed me with dog/cat allergy via a skin prick test (I had no prior knowledge of this allergy and apparently brought it on through overexposure due to volunteering and then working in an animal shelter) that I will be allergic to all cats but only some dogs. According to him, the protein in cats that people react to is all the same but in dogs it is not.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:36 PM on March 25, 2014

It wasn't Tiger! It was the flea powder!
posted by Glinn at 7:40 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. Much appreciated.
posted by eas98 at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2014

You inspired me to do some research on this, since I have experienced this as well. I lived for almost a decade with my two Maltese pups and had no issues. If a Labrador looks at me cross-eyed, I'll be down-and-out before you can even say "antihistamine".

It seems our reactions can depend on the source and type of protein the animal produces as well as how quickly they produce dander. The second point is why regular bathing can be a balancing act, as you may be keeping dander down on your particular pet or aggravating dry skin issues, making things worse.
posted by Wyeldfire at 1:06 PM on March 27, 2014

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