Some Dogs are Allergic to their Owners

Sure, people are allergic to dogs.

But dogs to people?

Absolutely. Just ask Fui (pronounce that Phooey).

The 6-year-old Shar-Pei, a “princess,” according to her owner, Pam Escobar, loves to be petted. But if Fui didn’t take pills twice a day and get allergy shots every two weeks, she would scratch and lick. A lot.

Canine allergic reactions to human dander are skin-related and don’t include sneezing.

“It’s never an obvious and direct reaction,” said Dr. Tom Lewis, a Phoenix-based veterinary specialist in dermatology who sees a number of cases in Tucson. “They’ll scratch and get a lot of secondary infections. Some of these dogs just are miserable.”

Lewis noted that because it takes time and exposure, the average dog is 2 to 5 years old before reactions to human dander begin.

Before she was diagnosed, Fui would lick her paws and sometimes even scratch her cornea because of her allergies. The 52-pound dog has taken medication since she was 7 months old.

In 2004, Escobar had Fui tested for 62 allergens. She was allergic to 61 of them.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this poor dog is going to be tortured,'” Escobar said. “It’s really sad.”

Treating Fui’s allergies costs $17 a month in pills and $230 every six months for the shots.

With medicine, Fui’s a different dog.

“She’s completely under control,” Escobar said. “I’ve been told that she’s a poster child for allergies — she looks so good.”

The Dermatology Clinic for Animals’ site,, contains a host of information about animal allergies and before-and-after photos.

An allergy to human dander is far from unusual. At the Gilbert location of Dermatology Clinic for Animals, 42 out of 100 recent allergy panel tests on mostly dogs tested positive for allergies to human dander. A response to each of the 69 allergens on the panel is rated from zero to four. The 42 that tested positive rated at least a two. Cats, like dogs, also can be allergic to human dander.

Lewis said that purebred dogs are more susceptible than mixed breeds to having these types of allergies. Labs, golden retrievers and some terriers are some breeds more likely to have a reaction to human dander.

Sylvia and Larry Fox, who own Insty-Prints on East Speedway, have owned Boston bull terriers for 32 years. The couple took in Bosco about 4 1/2 years ago.

“We noticed about six months into having him that he was having a lot of scratching problems,” said Sylvia Fox, noting that an initial regimen of Benadryl “wasn’t cutting it.”

Sylvia recalled Bosco scratching his ears to the point where he almost “shredded them” and licking his paws until they developed sores.

Bosco’s medical regimen includes a pill every day, whether it’s an antibiotic, antihistamine or Prednisone; eye medicine once or twice a day; a medicated bath once a week; and twice-monthly allergy shots.

Bosco also eats a rabbit-and-potato food diet. His treats consist of plain potato chips.

Escobar says people often are surprised when told that Fui is allergic to human dander.

“People have never heard of it,” said Escobar, whose two other Shar-Peis also take pills for allergies. “They want to know how we found out and what we do for it.”

Lewis has been testing for human dander on allergy panels for four or five years. A complete panel in Tucson tests for 70 things.

Treatments for human dander allergies include cortisone drugs, shots, frequent bathing and reduced exposure.

“A lot of the same treatments for humans apply to dogs,” Lewis said. “By the time (the dogs) get to me, they’ve already seen their regular vet. (Owners) know they’re in for a battle, but we can usually control it.”

One holistic veterinarian believes that allergies are rising among pets for several reasons.

“Animals keep getting sicker every generation because of over-medication, over-vaccination and poor quality of food,” said Dr. Judy Stolz, a Casa Grande-based holistic veterinarian who has been practicing about 20 years. “Dogs, like people, tend to be allergic to many things.”

Stolz might prescribe remedies made from plants and changes in nutrition.

Treatment is available

Some hypoallergenic dog breeds:

American hairless terrier

Airedale terrier


Bichon Frise


Border terrier

Cairn terrier

Chinese Crested


Giant schnauzer

Irish water spaniel

Kerry blue terrier




Portuguese water dog



Soft coated wheaten terrier


West Highland white terrier

Wirehaired fox terrier

Yorkshire terrier