For most people, dog allergies are a mild source of discomfort. They cause runny noses, respiratory distress, sneezing, and watery eyes. But the symptoms of dog allergies rarely escalate to a dangerous place. Can dog allergies cause anaphylactic shock? What would a life-threatening allergic reaction to dogs look like?
How Dog Allergies Work
An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to an allergen. In cases of dog allergies, this allergen can be found in the dog’s saliva, urine, and dander. You won’t find the proteins in the dog’s hair, although a dog’s coat can hold dander and other potential allergens.
When these allergen proteins come in contact with a person’s immune system, the immune system responds by releasing a flood of histamines. Histamines, along with other chemicals, cause the classic allergy symptoms most people experience. They may have a stuffy nose, sinus pressure, watery eyes, or trouble breathing.
Severe allergies can be deadly, though. Even though a pet allergy doesn’t tend to be deadly on its own, a person could die if they go into anaphylactic shock.
The Dangers of Anaphylactic Shock
Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can sometimes be fatal. Anaphylaxis affects the entire body. Common symptoms include:
- Skin flushing
- Hives on any area of the body
- Mouth and throat swelling
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Altered heart rate
- Inability to breathe
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Drop in blood pressure
- Total collapse and unconsciousness
A person doesn’t have to experience all of these symptoms to go into anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylactic shock occurs for the same reason that other allergic reactions occur. The immune system has an inappropriate reaction to a substance that the system wrongfully interprets to be a threat.
There are a number of allergens that are likely to cause anaphylactic shock. These tend to be insect stings or bites, foods like peanuts and shellfish, or chemicals such as latex. Vaccinations and other drugs can also occasionally cause anaphylactic shock.
Can Dog Allergies Cause Anaphylactic Shock?
It’s very rare for dog allergies to cause anaphylaxis. The majority of people who have an allergy severe enough to risk anaphylactic shock have an Epi-pen with them. They also tend to wear some kind of life alert bracelet to alert others regarding their condition in case they’re found while unconscious.
In the past, there have been rare or one-time cases in which humans went into anaphylactic shock following their contact with a dog. With that said, the majority of allergists don’t list anaphylaxis as a potential symptom of dog allergies.
Dog Allergies and Asthma
While an allergic reaction to a dog is unlikely to kill you on its own, dog allergies can be dangerous to people with severe asthma. Allergies are an environmental trigger that can cause asthma symptoms and make chronic asthma worse. If a person with severe asthma also has a severe dog allergy, contact with dogs could cause a dangerous asthma attack.
Precautions When Severely Allergic to Dogs
Even if you have a severe allergy to dogs, you’re unlikely to have a deadly episode. There are precautions you can take to decrease the severity of your symptoms. Common symptoms of a dog allergy include:
- Trouble breathing
- Itchy skin or a rash
- Sneezing and a stuffy nose
If the trouble breathing becomes serious, you should go to the emergency room. Otherwise, these symptoms don’t tend to be dangerous and should pass on their own.
If it’s possible, you should leave the situation and cease to be in contact with the dog. People with severe dog allergies should probably not keep dogs as pets. After you cease contact, your symptoms should gradually subside on their own.
Make sure that you don’t let dogs into your house, as their dander can linger for months after they leave. If you absolutely must share space with a dog, keep your sleeping area dog-free and consider investing in a high-quality air purifier to get rid of airborne dander. Vacuum, dust, and sweep regularly.
Over-the-counter drugs and nasal sprays can be helpful if you know you’re going to come into contact with a dog. For people with particularly severe allergies, you can talk to your doctor about prescription allergy medicine. If your doctor believes you’re at risk of anaphylactic shock, they may prescribe an Epi pen.
If you travel while allergic to dogs, you might want a breathing mask. Security dogs and service dogs are frequent visitors at train stations and airports. You’re likely to share a plane or train with a furry friend.
What Caused Anaphylaxis If Not Dogs?
In most cases regarding anaphylactic shock after contact with a dog, the person in question had one or more potentially fatal allergies already. It’s possible that they came into contact with this allergen when they contacted the dog. For example, a dog might have peanut residue on its fur.
It’s also possible that the person’s predisposition to fatal allergies is what caused such a severe reaction. Their immune system was already primed to have a dangerous reaction to a potential allergen. If you don’t have a history of potentially deadly allergies already, it’s very unlikely that you’ll experience one because of exposure to a dog.
You should be able to treat your allergy with medication. It might also help to have an allergy test done to ascertain what triggers your allergies. Dogs may be one cause, but there might be other environmental factors you’re not aware of. Knowing this information will help you make a plan for how to deal with your allergies in the future.