Hypo-allergenic Dogs?

There is no dog breed that is truly non-allergenic (not allergy causing) because all dogs produce dander (shed skin cells), saliva, and urine that people can be allergic to. Allergy-producing proteins, allergens, in the dander or saliva can produce nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, and serious asthma attacks. The word hypo-allergenic (less allergy causing) is typically used with skin care products that tend to be less irritating to sensitive skin.

Some dog breeds supposedly produce less dander than others, and many people who are allergic to dogs can tolerate some of these "lower dander" dog breeds with proper environmental controls (see below). Be careful though, as there are no guarantees! People's pet allergies vary greatly. Unless your petallergy is mild, it is probably impossible to find a dog breed that would not bother your allergies at all. However, with proper precautions the reaction might be mild enough to live with.

Getting a Dog?

The smartest choice, of course, is to have no dog. However, if you are determined to get a dog and you are willing to risk your health for it, please keep on reading.

Your first step is to study dog breeds to find the ones that would fit in your family and lifestyle. Then it is time to find a reputable breeder or an animal shelter/breed rescue group.

Visit the breeder's home, "expose" yourself to all her/his dogs, tell the breeder about your allergies, and ask a lot of questions. Hug and kiss the dogs, rub your nose into their fur, and breath the air in the room where they
live. Let the dogs also lick your bare skin, especially on your neck and inside your arms where the skin is more sensitive. All this will help you to evaluate your current allergic reaction to that particular breed. Maybe you can even borrow a dog of the breed you are considering for a few days or weeks. Remember, though, that sometimes allergies to animals can take two years or more to develop!

Environmental Controls

Controlling the amount of animal dander in the home is a very important part of treating pet allergies. Here are some examples of what to do in my battle against the dog allergy:

  1. Dogs are not allowed on the bed or even in the bedroom
  2. Use HEPA room aircleaners in all the bedrooms and in the family room
  3. The central heating system should have an electrostatic airfilter to help clean the air distributed through the house
  4. Use baby gates to keep the dogs downstairs -- away from the upstairs bedrooms
  5. House should have bare, easy to clean floors in all the rooms where the dogs spent most of their time -- no wall-to-wall carpeting collecting dander
  6. Bathe your dogs about once a week -- using a mild dog shampoo helps prevent overdrying of the skin
  7. Wash all dog bedding, doggie shirts, and soft dog toys weekly
  8. Cover the family room sofas with sheets to help prevent dog dander deposits on them -- the sheets are washed weekly, and the dogs are allowed on these sofas
  9. Vacuum a lot -- Have a vacuumcleaner with a HEPA filter

Get allergy shots (immunotherapy) for various allergens, including dogs, and use prescription anti-asthma medications. Unfortunately, hyposensitization to dogs is currently less effective than to cats, but experimental studies offer hope for improved allergy shots in the future.

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