Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about specific dog breeds that are “hypoallergenic” and perfect for families with pet allergies. Most of the time, these dogs tend to be hairless, or they have hair instead of fur, leading many people to believe that the dogs do not spread allergens into the home.
Unfortunately, this is mostly a myth, as no dog is entirely hypoallergenic. We spoke to Dr. Jules Benson, VP of Veterinary Services at Petplan pet insurance, to find out more.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
According to Dr. Benson, “there is no true
hypoallergenic dog, because [the thing that] causes the allergic reaction is common to all dogs. All dogs shed skin cells — or dander — even if they don’t shed fur.” The allergens are also present in these skin cells, as well as in saliva and urine. People with pet allergies react when these allergens are inhaled. “Dog dander is microscopic, like a micron of dust, and it can linger in the air so people can breathe it in without knowing it,” Dr. Benson explains. “Pet urine and saliva particles can adhere to a pet’s fur after they lick themselves, as well, so petting a dog could also lead to a reaction.”
Do Allergy-Free Dogs Exist?
So that’s the bad news. But don’t worry, there’s good news as well. While there are no 100% allergy free dogs, some breeds are better for people with allergies than others. “Dogs that have hair, not fur, actually don’t shed as much and tend to produce less sneeze-provoking dander,” said Dr. Benson.
Can My Dog Allergy Be Cured?
Unfortunately, there is no way to cure pet allergies. “Allergic reactions occur because the body’s immune system is treating the allergen — in this case, pet dander — as an enemy, so repeated or prolonged exposure could simply lead to a more extreme reaction — which could be very dangerous,” says Dr. Benson.
It is possible that some people, mostly children, may outgrow an allergy completely, but this has nothing to do with repeated exposure to a dog. If you do bring home a so-called hypoallergenic dog, don’t be surprised if those allergies do rear their ugly heads. However, if you or a family member only has minor pet allergies, one of the dogs listed above could be the right fit for your home.
Reduce the Allergens in Your Home
There are also ways to reduce the pet allergens in your home to limit the spread of dander. Specific areas of your home collect more allergens than others. These areas include carpets, furniture, mattresses, and window treatments. The key is diligent housekeeping. When purchasing a vacuum cleaner, make sure to get one with a HEPA filter. These are designed to remove even the smallest particles of pet dander. Hardwood floors are a great option, too, as the hair is visible and easier to remove.
Frequent baths and grooming of your pet will also help. “Just be sure to use a moisturizing shampoo, so your pet’s skin doesn’t dry out from so many baths,” warns Dr. Benson. You can also restrict your dog to specific parts of your home, and keep him out of the bedrooms of the family members who are allergic. Special air filters are also available to help remove dander that could be floating in the air.
If you believe you are allergic to dogs at the end of the day, be sure to get tested by an allergist who can determine if your allergies are due to pet dander or other allergens. Then you can decide if you’re perhaps able to live with a dog that produces less dander.
Article written by Author: Stacey Brecher