For people who suffer from allergies but have always wanted a dog, all is not lost. Hypoallergenic breeds and crossbreeds may be a viable option.
Allergy sufferers who love pets usually have to go without owning a dog, or, if they do hold a dog, aren’t able to spend as much time as they’d like with their pet for fear of an allergy attack. Buying a hypoallergenic breed may provide dog-lovers with a much-loved pet while keeping annoying allergies at a minimum.
What is a Hypoallergenic Breed?
In theory, a hypoallergenic breed or crossbreed is one in which a human’s reaction to a pet’s dander is considerably less than it is to a non-hypoallergenic breed, triggering fewer allergic irritations. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, however, all dogs can trigger an allergy attack in a person with allergies. Allergic reactions are not caused by hair, but by dander, or flakes of skin, which all dogs have.
Dr. Williams J. Davis, director of allergy and immunology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan says that a person who is allergic to dogs or cats are reacting to the proteins in the animal’s skin and saliva, which all dogs and cats have. “Theoretically, there is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat,” says Dr. Davis in the February 5, 1997, New York Times article “Nonallergenic Dog? Not Really.”
However, are there breeds or crossbreeds that produce fewer amounts of dander than other dogs? While opinions vary, some medical experts say that certain dogs do produce low dander, dogs who have short or thin hair, which sheds little. The American Kennel Club has a list of dogs which they say generally do well with people who suffer from allergies. The list includes dogs such as the Portuguese Water Dog to the Schnauzer. They caution, however, that they do not endorse any specific breed as a breed that will not affect people with allergies.
Finding a Hypoallergenic Dog
While there is no guarantee that a particular breed will not cause allergic reactions, there is a consensus that a dog who produces lower dander is better for those people who suffer allergies. “Allergists recommend spending time with the pet at the shelter or breeder’s before bringing it home,” writes Stacy St. Clair in the November 11, 2008 article “Allergist offers Advice on Obama Dog Debate.” This is easier on both pets and potential owners as if an allergic reaction does occur the pet would have to return to the shelter or breeder’s, which can be traumatic for both dog and owner.
Finding a dog with short or thin hair that tends to shed little is probably the best choice for allergy sufferers. Smaller dogs are a better choice because they do shed less than larger dogs. Some popular breeds that fall into these categories are:
- Bichon Frise: These dogs are relatively small in size, maxing out at about 12 pounds. They shed very little to no hair at all, making this breed a good option for allergy sufferers.
- Miniature Schnauzer: Although this breed has medium length hair, it also tends to shed very little.
- Xoloitzcuintli: This breed can be either hairless or coated. Hairless Xoloitzcuintlis do not shed while coated Xoloitzcuintilis shed very little, making this breed a perfect choice for those with allergies.
Controlling Your Allergies Around Your New Pet
Managing your environment is an essential factor in keeping your allergies to a minimum, even with a dog that has been classified as hypoallergenic. To minimize dander, be sure to wash and groom your pet regularly. Using cold water and pet allergy shampoo on your dog and spraying the dog’s coat with an anti-allergy spray are ways to keep the skin healthy, thus reducing dander.
Taking steps such as not allowing your pet on furniture, limiting his access to your bedroom or individual rooms in your home, and eliminating other dander catchers in your house will minimize allergic reactions while maximizing the enjoyment and time you spend with your pet.