Sick as a dog: canine allergies are on the rise – and adoring owners are to blame


Name: Dog allergies.

Appearance: Listless, sneezy, wet-nosed.

Status: On the rise.

I’m allergic to dogs, so I know how this feels. You misunderstand me. I’m not talking about people who are allergic to dogs.

Then what? I’m talking about the things that dogs are allergic to.

Really? Dogs can be allergic to things? Yes. In fact, it’s thought that almost a fifth of all dogs suffer with allergies. And guess what? It’s all your fault.

That’s a heavy accusation. Take it up with Dan O’Neill of the Royal Veterinary College. He claims that canine allergies could be on the increase because we treat our dogs too nicely.

What does that mean? It means that we treat dogs like part of the family. We let them sit on upholstered furniture. We wash them with special shampoo. We allow them to live inside. We make them wear flea collars.

I do not make my family wear flea collars. You get the picture, though. We coddle our dogs, and as such they show signs of suffering from human allergies.

Does this apply to all dogs? No. You know the sort of dogs that don’t suffer from allergies? Working dogs, who spend most of their time outside with other dogs.

Could it be that dogs have always had allergies, and we’re just more aware of them now? I mean, sure. Maybe we never used to notice dog allergies because we kept our pooches outside, made them work and ignored them. But, really, which life is better?

The one where the dogs live in nice warm houses? Maybe. Or maybe it’s the one where we treat dogs like dogs and not weird hairy children.

So what can we do? It sounds like we have two choices. Either we continue to look after our dogs the way we do now but are more careful about the food they eat and the surfaces they play on.

Or? Or we just chuck them outside again and let them get on with it.

Are any breeds of dog especially susceptible to these allergies? According to O’Neill, labradors and yorkshire terriers.

They’re very popular breeds. Maybe that’s why. They are the ones who spend most time around humans, so it stands to reason that they get the most human allergies.

Do say: “Get off the sofa.”

Don’t say: “At least until I’ve bought you some nice hypoallergenic cushions.”