Allergy free dogs -
the facts and the myths
Over ten million pet owners and non-pet owners in the US suffer from some kind of a pet allergy. This statistic tells us that there are a many people out there breaking out in rashes, itching/scratching and coughing/sneezing every time they go near a cat or a dog.
So what about allergy sufferers who are also pet lovers? Have their allergies sentenced them to a life without a pet? Not necessarily so, please read on . . .
Before discussing the facts and myths surrounding allergy free dogs it is important for the reader to have:
- Some basic understanding of Statistics and Facts surrounding human allergies in general, and
- The causes of human allergies to pets.
Causes of human allergic reactions to dogs
Most people mistakenly think that dog allergy sufferers are allergic to animal hair/fur, but this is not the case at all. In actual fact humans are allergic to "protein allergens" that are found in dogs':
- Secretions from oil glands which dogs shed along with dander.
So what is dog dander?
Dog dander is dry skin that flakes off and floats through the air and settles any where and every where dogs frequent. This is why if you or one of your kids are allergic to your pet, its a good idea not to sleep with it.
Dander is not unique to cats and dogs, humans shed dander as well. And although it is rare, dogs can suffer allergic reactions to human dander!
In days gone by, doctors would often recommend that patients dealing with pet allergies issues should re-home their pets. Whilst this may have caused a few allergies to clear up, it didn't really solve the problem, because pet allergens can be found every where, including in the homes of people who don’t own pets.
Also in the process of giving away family pets too many hearts were broken, and people started looking for ways and means of getting rid of pet dander in their homes, rather than parting with their beloved pets.
Reducing dog dander in the home
Having a family member who has an allergy to pets is similar in some respects to having a family member who suffers from asthma allergies. Here's a few tips to get you started.
- Bath your dog a couple of times a week. Research has shown that frequent bathing of dogs reduces the amount of allergen related protein on the hair of the dogs, and the amount of airborne allergens, thus minimising or even eliminating the reactions of an allergic person to dogs.
- Groom your dog daily to minimise the amount of hair/dander that your pet sheds around the house.
- Mop your floors daily.
- Wash your dogs bedding frequently in hot water.
- If your dog rides in the car with you, consider using washable seat covers.
- Create a dog-free area in your home, which will probably be the bedroom of your allergic family member. Do not allow the dog/s access to the designated dog-free area under any circumstances.
- Clean your home thoroughly and frequently, including any surfaces that trap dog hair and dander e.g. sofas, chairs, couch covers, and pillows. This will also help control other allergens in your home that family members may have allergies to.
- Purchase a good quality air purifier for your home.
- Make sure your pet's daily essential fatty acid requirements are met. By maintaining optimal levels of EFA's in your pet's diet, you can reduce shedding and dander associated with EFA deficiency.
- Coconut oil has been proven to help reduce dander and shedding, so try adding a few drops to each meal.
- After playing with the family dog, make sure that all family members wash their hands thoroughly.
- Make yourself familiar with the hygiene hypothesis, e.g. the concept that we can be too clean for our own good and underexpose our immune systems to common microbes in the environment. Please read this article published by the New York Times, which indicates that recent studies on a Child’s Risk of Developing Allergies, show there is evidence children exposed to animals before their immune systems are fully developed do not go on to develop allergies.
- Try feeding your dog an anti-inflammatory, species-appropriate diet. By reducing allergenic foods going into your pet you can reduce allergenic saliva coming out of your pet. Please see our food section on our Allergy Free Products page.
- Choose a dog breed that has less dander, and a dog that the allergic person responds positively to. Perverse as it may sound, some people with allergies to dogs may not respond positively to hypoallergenic breeds (dogs that produce less allergens than others), but show few allergic symptoms when in contact with non-hypoallergenic breeds.
- Vacuum daily.
Allergy free dogs - real or a myth?
hypoallergenic dog breeds
The term "hypoallergenic dog breeds" is commonly used by lay people to refer to dog breeds (or crossbreeds), which are more compatible with allergic people than other breeds.
However, veterinarians and researches urge, that there is no scientific basis to claims that certain dog breeds are completely "allergy free dogs".
All dogs shed and produce dander and saliva to some degree. However, it is the protein levels present in dogs dander/saliva which are the key factors determining the degree of human allergic reactions rather than the amount of shedding alone.
Its important to be aware of the fact that even hairless dogs shed dander which can trigger allergic reactions in humans. Each person's reaction can and will vary from dog to dog.
Research at The University of Virginia, has established that there are cases in which specific dogs, and not specific breeds, are better tolerated by some individuals, for reasons unknown.
And finally it is a fact that diligent owners can substantially reduce the amount of the allergens released by their dogs by following the tips given in our Reducing dog dander in the home segment.
It is true to say for most breeds, when not regularly bathed, even dogs which shed very little or have little dander can trigger allergic reactions in a sensitive people.
Dog Breeds for people with Allergies
Fortunately for all those dog-loving but allergic people out there, there are quite a few breeds that don't shed a lot and consequently spread less dander. Although the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not endorse or recommend any particular breed as being hypoallergenic, they have published a list of dog breeds that are commonly known for not shedding a lot.
If you are allergic to dogs and you'd like to give adoption a go, please click here to view photos and a brief synopsis of each breeds on the AKC list, plus a separate list of 23 other breeds.
This article and information forms part of the Carole's Doggie World Holistic Library and is presented for informational purposes only.The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local vet. Instead, the content offers the reader information researched and written by Carole Curtis for www.carolesdoggieworld.com