Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Allergic to Dogs Symptoms

It is sometimes difficult for individuals to determine whether they truly do suffer from dog allergies, because their symptoms may be due to completely unrelated allergies or other medical conditions e.g. common cold or flu. Also, because the allergy response may depend on other variables, such as the allergen level and sensitivity of the sufferer, it may take time for the symptoms to develop (See also: Do Allergies Result From Nature or Nurture?). However, most dog allergy sufferers display symptoms within minutes of coming into contact with a dog, and the most common symptoms experienced include:

Common Allergy to Dogs Symptoms

Allergic Rhinitis

If you find yourself sneezing when dogs are present, you may have a dog allergy and because this is caused by an indoor and potentially all-year-round allergen, it is termed perennial allergic rhinitis e.g. cockroaches, dander, dust, mites or mold. Conversely, seasonal allergic rhinitis refers to the cause being an outdoor, seasonally determined allergen e.g. fungus, pollen, ragweed.

Aside from sneezing, dog allergy sufferers may also experience numerous other symptoms such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, stuffiness or post-nasal drip. People can also experience the sensation of nasal itching or itching at the roof of the mouth, the throat or ears. A mild sore throat sensation, due to irritation of the membranes, is experienced by some people, whilst others may have a temporary dry, irritating cough.

The persistent (sometimes habitual) upward wiping action of the nose with the fingers, palm or back of hand in order to relieve nasal itching or remove mucus, is termed the nasal or allergic salute. It is most commonly observed in children and aside from facilitating the spread of germs, the repetitive action can result in a permanent crease mark on the nose.

Due to the sensitivity of the nasal region, inflammation or irritation and congestion can lead to facial pressure, pain and even headaches. Furthermore, a person may occasionally experience a temporary loss of smell, taste or hearing. Given the range of allergic rhinitis symptoms, people sometimes report feeling fatigued and irritable if their symptoms persist.

By contrast, nonallergic rhinitis refers to a group of syndromes e.g. vasomotor rhinitis, for whom the condition is not caused by allergens (allergy tests produce negative serum IgE results) and the underlying mechanism by which the disease is caused is usually unknown.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Itchy or watery eyes are a common symptom of having a dog allergy, because pet allergens/dander can get into the eyes leading to irritation and redness. This typically increases in severity with rubbing. If persistent, dark circles may be observed under the eyes.


Dog Allergy Symptoms Allergic Conjunctivitis

Many of the symptoms noted above are the result of the body trying to eradicate and expel the allergen, much as it would if the person had a virus such as the common cold. However, whereas a common cold will tend to get progressively worse, last between five to seven days and produce a thick, yellow nasal discharge, by contrast, allergy symptoms are chronic (perennial allergic rhinitis) or seasonal (seasonal allergic rhinitis) and usually produce thinner, clearer nasal secretions unless congestion and a subsequent secondary infection develops.

Interestingly, the body’s attempt to eliminate such allergens yield impressive statistics. For example:

Method of Elimination Comment
Sneezing Has been shown to vary in speed between 35 mph (56 kmh) (Mythbusters 2010) to 103.6 mph (167 kmh) (Guinness World Records 2004)
Mucus – amount Though difficult to ascertain, it has been estimated that a person produces more than 8.5 US pints (4 liters or 17 cups) of mucus a day (Parker 2005), of which just over 2 US pints (1 liter or 4 cups) is associated with your nose and sinuses (Dowshen 2012).


Allergic Skin Conditions

Skin reactions can develop and break out at various places on the body, particularly following close contact with the dog (e.g. holding/cuddling/petting animal or where the dog has rubbed against or licked them), but rashes on the chest and face are typically indicative of a more severe, hive allergy response. Should you develop a skin rash, it is important to resist the temptation to scratch, as more skin irritation can occur and the cycle of itch-scratch will become worse. Furthermore, damage to the skin increases the risk of fungal and bacterial secondary infections developing.

Allergic skin diseases or allergic dermatitis (dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin) can be categorized in various ways e.g. causative agent or the mechanism involved. For example:

  • Atopic dermatitis a.k.a. atopic eczema, atopy and formerly allergic inhalant dermatitis.
    Atopy is the genetic (hereditary) predisposition to Type 1 Hypersensitivity (immediate) and the production of IgE following allergen exposure. Historically, atopy was synonymous with skin allergies caused by inhalant/airborne allergens e.g. dust, pollen. However, it has since been shown that allergens entering the body by other modes i.e. contact or ingestion, can trigger a range of symptoms (including skin conditions) both locally and at distant locations around the body.
    Atopic dermatitis symptoms include dry, itchy (pruritus) red skin and are often referred to as eczema. However, atopic dermatitis is just one possible cause of itchy and inflamed skin that comes under the broad term eczema. Interestingly, the Mishra and Hoon 2013 study into determining the neuotransmitter primarily responsible for the sensation we term an ‘itch,’ indicated (contrary to other studies suggesting it was GRP) the molecule Nppb to be the culprit. Research such as this paves the way for a possible treatment to turn off chronic itch with conditions such as eczema.
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis or ACD (as opposed to other forms of contact dermatitis such as irritant contact dermatitis and photocontact dermatitis) e.g. chromium, nickel, poison ivy. The allergy mechanism of ACD is Type 4 Hypersensitivity (cell-mediated) and not the more common Type 1 Hypersensitivity form of allergic response.
  • External parasites related allergic dermatitis e.g. to fleas.
  • Food related allergic dermatitis e.g. to beef or wheat.
  • Microorganism related allergic dermatitis i.e. to microbes, typically bacteria or fungi, and their waste products commonly associated with infections.

Urticaria and angioedema are considered less common but more severe allergic skin conditions and are described in the appropriate section below.

Allergic Asthma

Another possible dog allergy symptom resulting from exposure to small airborne allergen particles entering the lungs includes breathing irritation, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Fortunately, only a minority of people allergic to dogs will experience significant asthma symptoms when exposed to dog allergens. Anyone concerned should always consult a practitioner.

Chest Congestion

When related to allergies, chest congestion can be caused by post-nasal drip (excess mucus draining into the lungs) or be due to allergy-induced asthma. Symptoms of allergy related chest congestion include breathing and chest discomfort e.g. tightness, minor pain, shortness of breath and trouble sleeping, as well as a persistent cough. As with allergic asthma, only a minority of people allergic to dogs will experience significant chest congestion issues, however one must always bear in mind the potential risk of secondary infections. Therefore, anyone concerned should always consult a practitioner.

Less Common but Serious Allergy to Dogs Symptoms

Unfortunately, some individuals suffer from other medical conditions e.g. various lung diseases, which can exacerbate the symptoms associated with an allergic reaction to dogs. Also, the person may just be unusually hypersensitive and thereby exhibit more intense symptoms that can be both painful and distressing. In such cases, medical attention may be required and prescription medication administered.

Uricaria describes when a person develops hives, welts or wheals which are very itchy, red, swollen and inflamed areas of skin that range in size from a pea to a peach or larger. They frequently appear in clusters that may last for just a few hours up to days, weeks or even months in more extreme cases. This condition can be caused by allergic or non-allergic factors.

Furthermore, there may be possible long-term health ramifications resulting from recurring allergic reactions or allergy flare-ups. In some instances and especially in children, repeated flare-ups have been shown to cause permanent lung scarring and damage.

Anaphylactic shock, though rarest of all, is an extreme allergic reaction to an allergen and is potentially life-threatening for a number of reasons. For example, angioedema (skin swelling) may occur in the face/neck region, the air passages can constrict making breathing difficult and cardiac dysrhythmia, coupled with a sudden and dangerous drop in blood pressure, can develop within minutes; in such cases emergency assistance is essential. Fortunately, allergic reactions such as these are believed to affect less than 3% of the population (Kemp 2007) and are usually associated with allergies to food or medication.

Other Possible Allergy Symptoms

The possible range of allergic symptoms is considerable although the ones listed below are invariably associated with food and medicine allergies:

  • Vomiting or abdominal pains and cramps or colic sensations with/without diarrhea.
  • Itching or tightness or swelling of lips, tongue, mouth or throat.
  • Lowered blood pressure.

With regards to best practice advice, any person concerned about their dog allergy symptoms should always consult a qualified physician or other professional in the field e.g. dermatologist for skin related problems.

Allergies and Quality of Life

Associated with the allergy symptoms listed above is the important issue of an individual’s quality of life. Allergy symptoms can impact a person’s:

  • Physical well-being.
  • Mental and emotional well-being.
  • Social and sports activities.

Various studies and surveys e.g. SRBI 2007, have shown allergies can be associated with:

  • Sleep disturbances. Various disturbances can occur due to possible irritation, congestion and inflammation in the nose, throat, lungs and general airways. These can include problems of getting to sleep, broken sleep, snoring and sleep apnea, as well as feeling unrefreshed after sleeping. This is another reason to make sure that bedrooms are dog-free environments and in particular, never allow a dog onto the bed itself.
  • Performance issues at school or in the workplace. Children and adults alike can find their ability to concentrate impaired and their alertness and cognitive function dulled.
  • A negative impact on social and sports activities. One’s physical, mental and emotional well-being has a profound impact on social and sports activities. Feeling fatigued, irritable and miserable or being in pain can make the allergy sufferer anti-social and cause underachievement at sport.

Tackling the symptoms of allergies and improving the quality of life for a sufferer will be determined by the success of both the preventative measures adopted and the treatment they receive. However, no two people will respond to a given drug or treatment in the same way and the degree of success can range from excellent to no difference, and in some cases, the medication can actually make their symptoms worse. For example, certain antihistamines can cause drowsiness and although rare, hypersensitivity to them is possible e.g. Shakourii and Bahna 2013.

Variability of Allergy Symptoms

It should be noted that significant variations exist regarding the type, severity and duration of symptoms experienced by people who are allergic to dogs. For example, they may:

  • Develop an allergy to dogs without warning. Conversely, people’s allergy symptoms have been reported to disappear suddenly.
  • Find that allergies may temporarily disappear e.g. during pregnancy for some women.
  • Experience periods of decreasing or increasing sensitivity over time.
  • Only ever experience low grade symptoms whilst others have dramatic symptoms requiring medical assistance.
  • Be allergic only to specific breeds, whereas other people are allergic to all dogs.
  • Only be able to tolerate one specific dog.
  • Experience that their symptoms impact other allergies (concurrent allergies) or conditions they may have e.g. worsen seasonal allergies or sinusitis.

and finally…one of the most commonly asked questions related to allergy symptoms (covered in more depth in Congestion Complications – Fever, Warning Signs, Polyps) is:

Can Allergies Cause a Fever (Pyrexia)?

Although defining what constitutes a fever differs slightly between authorities, a commonly quoted figure is a body temperature above 38 °C (100.4 °F) in adults and 37.5 °C (99.5 °F) in children under 5. However, there is much contradictory advice and confusion on the internet concerning the issue of allergies and fever. For example:

  • Based on circumstantial and anecdotal evidence, many people feel that allergies are associated with low grade fevers (Examples 1 or 2).
  • Additional weight to this point of view comes from more authoritative sources. For example, the cold and flu relief manufacturer Vicks article on the differences between colds, flu and allergy symptoms note, “sometimes a low-grade fever is due to allergies…” and furthermore, an article on mosquito stings comments that, “some people have more serious reactions like blistering lesions or larger hives accompanied by fever”.
  • Doctors often cite the term ‘hay fever’ as a misnomer that contributes to the confusion of allergies and fevers i.e. ‘hay fever’ is not dependent on hay and neither does it cause a fever ( Interestingly, doctors themselves can sometimes, even if inadvertently, add to the confusion felt by a layperson concerning this issue e.g. note the online health site response to the search term “Can allergies cause a fever and dizziness?” Answer: “If severe. An allergic reaction may include these symptoms”.
  • In addition, studies have noted allergy and the presence of a fever (pyrexia) e.g. Dhar et al. 1989
  • In some cases a placebo-like effect may be occurring, whereby the individual believes that they are experiencing a fever because certain symptoms of an allergy (e.g. runny nose) parallel those of when someone is suffering from a virus e.g. common cold. Taking an accurate reading of the person’s temperature will ascertain whether the person does indeed have a fever, although this can be complicated by the fact that body temperature can vary between individuals and be affected by the time of day it is taken, hormonal changes, medication etc.

However, in general, the medical fraternity take the view that allergies do not cause a fever per se but that allergy related factors are the cause of a fever e.g. secondary infections developing from symptoms such as post nasal drip and congestion. For example:

  • American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Concerning allergic rhinitis and seasonal or year-round allergies, say they “do not cause fever.”
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: In a document entitled, Is It a Cold or an Allergy?, note airborne allergy/fever…. “never”. This forms the basis for the Mayoclinic article that drops the word ‘airborne’ but maintains ‘allergy’ and agrees with the original document concerning a fever i.e.“never”
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: clearly state, “There is no fever with allergies.

Note: Cited examples and quotes correct as of December 17 2013


Allergic to Dogs Symptoms
Congestion Complications – Fever, Warning Signs, Polyps Congestion Complications – Fever, Warning Signs, Polyps
Learn about allergy-related congestion and discover factors that can aggravate it, as well as various complications and warning signs such as fever and polyps.

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