By Dr. Becker
You may have seen the story last October of poor Adam, a two year-old black Labrador Retriever in Indianapolis who didn't look much like a black Lab at all due to a severe allergy. He had bald patches all over his body and his skin in many spots was blistered and angry looking. You can see pictures of him here.
Adam was picked up by animal control and wound up at Indy's Lucky Dog Retreat Rescue. The folks at Lucky Dog assumed Adam would quickly regain his health in a loving foster home after a flea treatment and a diet change. But things didn't go quite so smoothly.
When it was clear the flea treatment and diet change were having no effect, the workers at the rescue tried a number of other remedies, including special baths, antibiotics, and steroids, but still Adam itched and scratched and felt miserable. They put him in a cone full-time to keep him from digging at his skin. They arranged for a skin biopsy -- it came back negative.
Eventually the veterinarian who works with Lucky Dog ran some allergy tests and discovered that Adam was allergic to, of all things, humans. Human dander, to be precise – the microscopic flakey stuff we shed from our skin and scalp 24/7. Sadly, all the well-intentioned hands-on care the people at Lucky Dog had been giving Adam was actually making his skin condition worse.
The rescue then found another veterinarian who created an immunotherapy formula (allergy shots) containing proteins from human dander that would hopefully desensitize Adam over time and make his body much more comfortable around humans.
It appears things did work out for Adam, because he's looking good on the Lucky Dog Facebook page last month, and it seems he's also found his new forever home!
Pet Allergies to Human Dander Aren't Uncommon
Many pet guardians are shocked to learn their dog or cat is allergic to them. But since humans can be sensitive to pet dander, it makes sense that some pets are also allergic to us.
According to Dr. Tom Lewis, a veterinary dermatologist in Phoenix, when pets are allergic to humans, "It's never an obvious and direct reaction. They'll scratch and get a lot of secondary infections. Some of these dogs just are miserable."1
And because it takes time and repeated exposure to human dander for an allergy to develop, the average dog is 2 to 5 years old before he begins to react.
Pet allergies to human dander are fairly common, but often go undiagnosed. Dr. Lewis believes that purebred dogs are more likely than mixed breeds to have this type of allergy. Labs, Golden Retrievers, and some terriers seem predisposed.
Helping a Pet with a Human Dander Allergy
If your dog or cat has a confirmed allergy, the usual advice is to remove the allergen (in this case, you and all other human members of the household) from your pet's environment, which obviously isn't a workable solution.
A few common sense environmental changes can be helpful, such as getting a good quality air purifier, vacuuming and mopping regularly to remove human dander and hair, and if your dog sleeps on your bed with you, covering your bedding with a hypoallergenic, washable duvet to keep your skin cells away from your dog.
You can also opt for desensitization injections (allergy shots), or oral drops if available. Studies show sublingual (under the tongue) drops can be just as effective as injections.
If you happen to live near an NAET practitioner (NAET = Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques), he or she may also be able to offer a non-toxic means of allergy elimination.
I routinely prescribe certain supplements for pets with allergies, starting with quercetin, which I call "nature's Benadryl" because it's very effective at suppressing histamine release. Histamine is what causes the inflammation, redness, and irritation associated with an allergic response.
Bromelain and papain are proteolytic enzymes that increase absorption of quercetin, making it more effective. I like to combine quercetin, bromelain, and papain together because they have a great synergistic effect. They also suppress prostaglandin release, which in turn decreases the pain and inflammation of irritated mucus membranes and other areas of the body.
I also frequently recommend a product called HistoPlex-AB by Biotics Research. This is a blend of standardized herbal extracts with immunomodulating effects. I also use Moducare by Thorne Research to help modulate overactive immune systems. Nettles tincture (an herbal remedy) can also be beneficial for these pets.
Additionally, there may be several homeopathic remedies that can benefit your dog, based on his or her specific symptoms.
Addressing Your Pet's Diet
Pets with allergies should be transitioned to an anti-inflammatory diet if they aren't already on one. Diets that create or worsen inflammation are high in carbohydrates.
Your allergic pet's diet should be very low in grain content (preferably no grain) and potato-free. If you adhere to Chinese food energetics or Chinese food theory and principles, you will also want to avoid feeding "energetically warm" or hot foods during periods of inflammation in your pet. This means avoiding chicken and beef as protein sources.
Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease inflammation throughout the body. Adding them into the diet of an allergic pet can be very beneficial. The best sources of omega-3 are krill oil, salmon oil, tuna oil, anchovy oil, sardine oil, and other fish body oils.
I also recommend coconut oil for allergic pets because it contains lauric acid, which helps decrease the body's production of yeast. Using fish body oil with coconut oil can help moderate or even suppress the inflammatory response.