Dogs can have an allergic reaction to human dander, which means anyone who sheds dander will affect the animal, and it's more common than you think. These allergies usually manifest as skin problems. The good news is a dog's allergy from human skin dander is treatable.
What Is a Dog Allergy to Human Dander?
Dogs that are allergic to human dander, and many other things, tend to have gradually progressive skin issues. When humans are allergic to dogs, they may sneeze and sniffle. Others may break out in hives. The reaction does not usually happen all at once (the way people start sneezing or breaking out). Instead, it usually starts with mild skin irritation and itching. Over time, the skin irritation gets worse, the itching gets worse, and the scratching further irritates the skin. Irritation may cause the skin to become infected (bacterial or fungal/yeast). It's kind of a vicious cycle.
Dog Allergy Symptoms
Diagnosing Dogs with Human Allergies
If you suspect that your dog has an allergy, which may be caused by human dander, your vet may not have a definitive diagnosis. Skin afflictions are common in dogs so it's easy to overlook. Monitor to see if your dog is fine outdoors but scratches or sneezes when inside. If the symptoms persist indoors, dander could be the cause.
Causes of Dog Allergies to Human Dander
Allergies in dogs are caused by the exfoliation of tiny flakes of dead skin and hair from the human. The human dander is not visible, airborne, and inhaled by the dog.
How to Treat a Dog with Allergies to Humans
There is hope for dogs allergic to humans, and it's not living in isolation from people! If your dog is itchy or has an apparent skin problem, go to your veterinarian. Once the immediate skin issue is diagnosed and treated, your vet can talk to you about options. If an allergy is suspected, your allergic dog might actually have multiple allergies. Allergy testing is the only way to know for sure what your dog is allergic to.
Some vets will offer a blood test to check for allergies. However, veterinary dermatologists agree that blood testing for allergies simply is not accurate. Skin testing (intradermal allergy testing) for allergies is the way to go. With skin testing, the tiny, controlled allergic reactions can be seen in real-time and are quite obvious to the trained eye. Treatment for a positive result may include oral medication, a corticosteroid cream, and a prescription for a custom formula-based serum, which is then given to the dog as injections over a period of time. Other medications may be needed, and the management of allergies is often a lifelong process. However, many dogs can live a comfortable, happy life despite these allergies.
Cost for Testing
Intradermal allergy tests can cost around $250 in addition to the examination.
What Happens When Dogs Allergic to Human Dander Is Left Untreated?
If your dog's allergy is left untreated it could lead to atopic dermatitis and secondary bacterial infection. Your pet will experience flaky skin, loss of hair, and discomfort.
Dog Allergy Prognosis
Owners don't always find out what their dogs are actually allergic to. Vets often treat dogs symptomatically when it's not yet a chronic skin problem (or when owners do not wish to have allergy testing done). Some dogs respond to the treatment of symptoms, so we don't necessarily need to find out what they are allergic to.
It's fair to assume that there are many dogs out there with human allergies; they just don't get diagnosed. In reality, many dogs with skin issues are allergic to multiple substances.
Breeds that Commonly Get Skin Allergies
Pit bull terrier
English bull dogs
How to Prevent Allergies to Human Dander
- Maintain a clean home as a preventive measure for dogs with human dander allergies.
- Keep skin healthy through a balanced diet.
- Choose dog food with fish as the main ingredient, along with high-quality carbohydrates, vegetables, oats, or rice. Beef and dairy are typical offenders to dogs with allergies.
- Give your dog anti-oxidant-rich vitamins B, C, and E supplements, as well as fatty acid vitamins.
- Regular dog brushing helps your dog's circulation and keeps their fur healthy.
- Check with your groomer on the best schedule for your dog's grooming maintenance. Some breeds, like a poodle, necessitate more visits because their fur is easily matted.
- Every three to six months, treat your dog to a bath with a gentle shampoo that does not strip oils.
Other Common Dog Allergies
What to Do If Your Dog Has Allergies
- Put your dog on a gradual elimination diet with food that does not contain soy, wheat, or yeast. Feed your dog homemade or hypoallergenic food. Keep a diet journal to record your observations.
- Apply diluted apple cider vinegar on your dog's irritated skin.
- Wash all fabrics, notably the dog bed covering, and vacuum.
- Add fish oil with at least 800 mg EPA and 525 mg DHA per serving to your dog's food once a day.
- Give your dog an oatmeal bath by adding one cup of slow-cooked oatmeal to a shallow bath of warm water. (If your dog has a yeast infection, do not administer an oatmeal bath).
- Administer coconut oil internally to your dog (1/4 teaspoon for small dogs and a tablespoon for larger breeds). Coconut oil can also be applied topically to soothe irritated skin.
- Add turmeric to your dog's food.
- Apply aloe vera gel on the dog's irritated skin.
- Make a paste by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with a little water and apply to the skin.
- In severe cases, or if you see little change by following the aforementioned steps, schedule an appointment with your vet.
Dermatology Fact Sheets: What About Allergies? University of California at Davis Veterinary Medicine.
Kang, Min-Hee et al. Sensitization rates of causative allergens for dogs with atopic dermatitis: detection of canine allergen-specific IgE. Journal of veterinary science vol. 15,4 (2014): 545-50. doi:10.4142/jvs.2014.15.4.545
Udraite Vovk L, Watson A, Dodds WJ, Klinger CJ, Classen J, Mueller RS. Testing for food-specific antibodies in saliva and blood of food allergic and healthy dogs. Vet J., vol. 245, no. 1-6, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.12.014
Dermatitis and Dermatologic Problems in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Food Allergies in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.