Physical Traits

Dog Allergy Genetic Risk Factors

Do you sneeze, wheeze, sniffle, and itch when you’re around dogs? If you have a dog allergy, it might be in your DNA. Learn more at Genomelink

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Dog Allergy DNA Traits

Dogs are the most adorable, loving, wonderful, loyal, joyous creatures in the world. But if you have a dog allergy, your relationship with cute little canines might be complicated.

It’s not even a matter of simply not owning a dog, either. Dogs are ubiquitous; roughly 57% of U.S. households have at least one dog. If you have a dog allergy, it’s not necessarily something you have to address only when you are next to a dog; pet dander can travel fairly efficiently. What’s more, it sticks to clothing and upholstery and can be transferred easily and unknowingly. So, if you work with someone who has a dog, you might experience an allergic response even if the dog isn’t in the room.

It is estimated that roughly 30% of people have an active dog allergy at any given time, and at least 75% of people develop an allergic reaction once in their lifetime. The prevalence of allergies in the industrialized world is increasing, particularly in urban areas.

Are allergies genetic or environmental? While the environment might contribute to allergic responses, we are increasingly learning that allergies might be encoded in our genetic makeup.

What is a Dog Allergy?

When a person has a dog allergy, it is usually not the actual animal they are allergic to, but the dander produced by the dog’s skin. Often, these allergic reactions produce excessive sneezing and a runny nose. Pet dander remains in the air for long periods. Even entering a space where a dog visited allows dander to enter your lungs or eyes. 

Allergic responses are the immune system’s overcompensation when certain particles enter the body. The allergen interacts with inflammatory cells, which infiltrate the nasal lining, where inflammatory cells cause immunoglobulin E (IgE) production by plasma cells. 

This immunoglobulin production, in turn, triggers mast cells to release mediator molecules such as histamine, leukotrienes, and cytokines. The release of these mediators causes the onset of an allergic reaction. Pollen, pets, molds, and mites are the most common allergens.

For most people, dog allergies are manageable, but they can lead to eczema, especially in children. In the past, people thought that exposing the family dog to a newborn put the baby at risk for developing allergies. It turns out that the opposite is true. Pet dander exposure could prevent the child from developing allergies, even if they are genetically predisposed to having them. 

How Do Genes Cause a Dog Allergy?

The inherited component of an allergic response is supported by three recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on Europeans and North Americans, which identified 47 related single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) altogether.

In one of the studies, skin prick tests were performed using common inhalant allergens on 432 study participants. For the first time, a specific SNP, rs7775228 located on the human leukocyte antigen gene (HLA-DQB1), was found to be associated with dog dander-specific allergic sensitivity. Participants with at least one copy of the C allele were more likely to exhibit a dog allergy. HLA-DQB1 is a protein-coding gene and plays a critical role in the immune system.

How Do I Find What Genes I Have?

If you have dog allergies, you’re not alone. Even if you love dogs, the constant sneezing, itching, and watering eyes make it nearly impossible to be around them. Even worse, allergies to dog dander may be preventing you from enjoying all the benefits of dog ownership.

People with allergies are typically sensitive to more than one irritant, but that may not be the case for those with rs7775228 in their genetic makeup. Dog allergies with a genetic connection may be more isolated than other types of allergies. 

If your dog allergies are baked into your genetic code, it may surprise you to learn it might still be possible to live with a dog and not depend on medications. Hypoallergenic breeds shed less than other dogs and produce less dander. While no dog is 100% allergy-proof, people with dog allergies may be able to live with a hypoallergenic dog without problems. 

Knowing your genetic predisposition to allergies will help you make the best choices about your health and lifestyle. An in-depth DNA analysis of your raw DNA file will empower you with the information you need to live your best life.

You can download your raw DNA file if you perform an at-home DNA test from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or another provider. Genomelink can perform a comprehensive evaluation of your genetic makeup, helping you better understand your genetic characteristics.

Are you interested in learning more about your genetic tendency for dog allergies? Let the team at Genomelink help you unlock your full potential.

Uncover your genetic potential by signing up with Genomelink today!

Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

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