Are Male Dogs Causing Your Allergies?

Female dogs could be an option if you're allergic to a protein made only by male dogs. eva_blanco/Shutterstock

If you're one of the many people who has an empty home because you're allergic to dogs, science might have an answer.

People who have dog allergies react to proteins found in dog urine, saliva and dander. The proteins are spread into the air when a dog scratches or even moves around, or they're deposited into your clothes, furniture or carpet. When you breathe them in, it can trigger symptoms.

But new research finds that some people might only be allergic to a specific protein found only in male dogs.

"Up to 30% of people with dog allergy may be allergic to only one protein found in the dog called Can f 5 (which is a prostate protein) and those people may be able to tolerate female dogs," allergist Lakiea Wright, M.D. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tells MNN.

In one recent study, researchers conducted allergy skin prick tests on 22 teenagers with dog allergies. They tested for reactions to proteins Can f 1, 2, 3 and 5 from dog dander from both male and female dogs.

They found that those teens with sensitivities to Can f 5 had different reactions to dander from male and female dogs. The findings, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, suggests that those with an allergy to that specific protein might be able to tolerate female dogs.

In addition, Wright says, other studies suggest that people who are allergic to only this protein are able to be around neutered male dogs without exhibiting allergic symptoms.

"Many people are allergic to more than one protein. It's important to talk to your physician when you suspect you have a dog allergy. Based on your clinical history, your physician will decide what testing is appropriate," she says.

There are two types of allergy testing: traditional whole allergen testing, which can be skin prick or blood testing, and component testing, which is done only by blood test. Component testing determines the specific proteins you're allergic to. There are six dog proteins available for testing, as well as component testing for cats and horses. Testing is based on your symptoms.

An allergist will start by asking about your medical history and what symptoms you have when you're around pets. Start keeping track if you feel different around male (neutered and unneutered) and female dogs.

Tips to help with dog allergies

Kerry blue terrier
The Kerry blue terrier's wavy coat comes in a rainbow of blue-gray shades. Vtls/Shutterstock

If you have a pet allergy and want to live in peace with your dog, here are some tips to reduce symptoms, according to Wright and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  • Wash your hands and clothes after coming in contact with a dog.
  • Keep your dog out of your bedroom.
  • Give your dog regular baths.
  • Clean your home often because allergens are sticky and cling to carpet and furniture.
  • Have someone without a pet allergy brush your pet outside.
  • Wear a dust mask to vacuum because vacuums stir up allergens. Use a vacuum with a certified filter.
  • Talk to an allergist about your symptoms. They may be able to recommend medicine or immunotherapy.

If you don't have a dog and are thinking of getting one, there's really no such thing as one that is hypoallergenic. Some dogs shed less, however, so there's less dander, which can mean fewer symptoms. Hence, the popularity of doodles.