"Up to 30% of people who are allergic to dogs are really allergic to a specific protein that is produced in a dog's prostate," said Dr. Lakiea Wright, allergist at Brigham and Women & # 39; s Hospital Boston.
"If you are allergic only to that specific protein in the male dog, you can tolerate a female or a neutered dog," Wright said.
It is not the animal's hair that triggers the allergic reaction. It is the proteins in the urine, saliva and dandruff (or dead skin cells) of the dog or cat that cause the reaction of a hypersensitive immune system. To date, science has identified six specific allergens for dogs.
And this is where the good news comes in: people can be allergic to one or more of the dog's five proteins, but not to others, which can affect which breed or gender will make him sneeze.
Spoiler: Because all dogs produce one or more types of protein, there really isn't a "hypoallergenic" dog, Wright said.
"When we suspect a dog allergy, we are testing that complete allergen," Wright explained. "But we are also analyzing specific proteins, the parts that make up the whole, to refine those diagnoses."
In the male dog, a protein called Can f 5 is produced in the prostate. When the dog urinates, the protein can spread to the skin and hair throughout the body.
"These proteins are very light, so they disperse in the air as the animal moves," said Wright, "They can also remain in the air for a long time and land on our furniture, mattresses and even our clothes." .
Because we wear those in our clothes, pet allergens can be found in homes and other places where a pet has never been.
How do you know if you are only allergic to male dogs?
Start by giving your allergy doctor a good history of your symptoms, Wright said. When did the symptoms begin? Do you find yourself sneezing alone, or more, around male dogs?
Also, ask: How many other allergies do you have? Allergies tend to cluster. Wright said that more than three specific types make him especially vulnerable to developing asthma or other respiratory problems.
If your history indicates, doctors can analyze a reaction to Can f 5 by a skin prick or a blood test, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. UU.
If you are not allergic to Can f 5 but still have a reaction, you can also reduce your exposure to allergens and the symptoms they produce by following the steps recommended by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:
- Change your clothes after being near dogs or cats.
- Ask a family member without a pet allergy to clean litter boxes or bedding and brush the pet outside.
- Keep your pet out of the room. And consider a HEPA air filter, but first aggressively clean: pet allergens can remain for months.
- Dog and cat allergens are "sticky" and can remain on the wall-to-wall carpet. If possible, remove it and rub the walls and wood. "The bare floors and walls are the best."
- Vacuums shake any allergens that have settled, so wear a mask and use a vacuum cleaner with a certified filter. Also use a certified filter for central heat and air units.
- Be sure to visit a specialist to check your allergies. They may recommend medications or immunotherapy treatments.