(CNN)Love dogs but find yourself uncontrollably sneezing around some of them? There might be a solution that's easier than allergy shots. Neuter your male pup or opt for a female dog.
Allergic to dogs? It may only be the males
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"Up to 30% of people who are allergic to dogs are actually allergic to one specific protein that's made in the prostate of a dog," said Dr. Lakiea Wright, an allergist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
While the protein was identified years ago, a reliable blood test for the allergen was only approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last May.
"If you're allergic to only that specific protein in the male dog, you may be able to tolerate a female or a neutered dog," Wright said.
Allergies to animals with fur are common, especially in people who have asthma or other allergies such as pollen or dust. Three in 10 people with any allergy will also be allergic to their cat or dog, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
It's not the hair of the animal that triggers the allergic reaction. It's proteins in the urine, saliva and dander (or dead skin cells), of the dog or cat that trigger an oversensitive immune system to react. To date, science has identified six specific dog allergens.
And here's where the good news comes in: People can be allergic to one or more of the five dog proteins but not others, which may affect which breed or gender will send you into a sneezing fit.
Spoiler: Because all dogs make one or more types of proteins, there truly is no such thing as a "hypoallergenic" dog, Wright said.
"When we suspect a dog allergy, we're testing for that whole allergen," Wright explained. "But then we're also looking at specific proteins, the parts that make up the whole, to refine that diagnoses."
In the male dog, a protein called Can f 5 is made in the prostate. When the dog urinates, the protein can spread to the skin and hair throughout the body.