Using tests to determine pet allergy triggers

New allergy testing tools can help pinpoint exact triggers for pet allergies.

Many people face the difficult decision of getting rid of the family pet if someone in the household develops pet allergies. What if there was a way to pinpoint exactly what kind of animal is causing the allergic reaction—even down to the gender?

Even when someone removes a pet from their home, the allergens can stick around for months. One thing that might help is new, more precise allergy testing that can pinpoint the source of allergies down to an animal’s gender. This could be especially useful for families with multiple pets who struggle with the decision to rehome their animals.

Michael Benninger, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said previous testing methods would only identify an allergy to cats or dogs—or furry animals in general. Now, there is a test that can differentiate between the proteins from different furry animals. The test, called an in-vitro or component allergy test, can even predict if you are more sensitive to gender-based proteins.

“What it does is measure specific proteins within a potential allergen. Each of these have multiple proteins and some proteins can be in other allergens, or cross over. Such is the case with nuts and trees and pets,” Benninger said. “Component testing is used commonly in peanut allergy testing as there are only specific proteins that can result in anaphylaxis. In pet allergies, component testing can help differentiate whether someone is truly allergic to dog, cat, horse, or others. Skin testing may be positive for all 3 because of the cross over proteins. In dog allergies, component testing can even determine if someone is allergic only to male dogs because of a prostate protein.”

The protein in question is Can f 5.1 It is made in the prostate of male dogs and spread to their skin and fur when they urinate. This protein has been identified as a top offender when it comes to dog allergies.2

Although some people with allergies may choose to get rid of their pets to avoid reactions, the benefit of this test is that it could give patients more information when it comes to what they need to avoid—even when it comes to other people’s pets.

Benninger suggested that anyone who suspects a pet allergy be screened—either with a skin or blood test. If the results are unclear or it seems like there could be cross over, then this can be followed with specific allergy component testing, he explains.

“Again, peanut is a good model,” Benninger added. “If a child tests positive to peanut then a follow up component test should be done to determine their risk of anaphylaxis. 78% of peanut allergic children do not have allergy to the proteins associated with anaphylaxis.”

References

1. van Hage M, Hamsten C, Valenta R. ImmunoCAP assays: pros and cons in allergology. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2017;140(4):974-977. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2017.05.008

2. Schoos A, Chawes B, Bloch J, et al. Children monosensitized to Can f 5 show different reactions to male and female dog allergen extract provocation: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2020;8(5):1592-1597.e2. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2019.12.012