If you’re thinking of buying a hypoallergenic dog to prevent allergies, you might be disappointed.
The truth is that all dogs can trigger allergies – even those that don’t shed – so there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. The claims surrounding these breeds are usually based on false information or are just a marketing ploy.
But what causes an allergy? And are there breeds that are less likely to trigger allergies – even if they aren’t truly hypoallergenic? Keep reading to find out.
What Causes an Allergy to Dogs?
A lot of people with allergies think symptoms are triggered by fur. This isn’t the case– dog allergies are caused by a reaction to a protein in the dog’s skin. If you have an allergy, your immune system incorrectly identifies this protein as dangerous, which triggers symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose and wheezing.
The problem is that this protein can get everywhere if you own a dog. Dogs continuously shed dead skin cells (dander), which allows the protein to float around your home. Dander sticks to carpets, curtains, pillows, mattresses and almost everywhere else. Whenever a cell enters your eye or mouth, it can cause a reaction.
What does Hypoallergenic Actually Mean?
Many supposedly hypoallergenic dog breeds are marketed as “allergy-free” because they don’t shed hair. There is some truth to this, as dander often hitches a ride on hair. If a dog doesn’t shed, the amount of dander released into the home may be reduced.
This doesn’t make a dog hypoallergenic though. There is always going to be dander released by a dog, even if it doesn’t shed. The amount of dander can also vary greatly and is not always dependent on the amount of hair it sheds.
Even so, the American Kennel Club has a list of breeds which it says release smaller quantities of dander due to their non-shedding coat. Breeds include the bichon frise, poodle and schnauzer (click here for the full list).
Can I Still Own a Dog if I’m Allergic?
This is something only you can decide – but it depends on the severity of your symptoms.
If your symptoms are severe or cause difficulty breathing, you may want to consider another type of pet (not all pets trigger allergies in the same people). But if you have mild or moderate symptoms, and don’t mind making extra effort to minimise pet dander, it’s certainly possible to own a dog.
If you decide to get a dog, here are a few tips for reducing your symptoms.
- We’ve already seen that no dog is truly hypoallergenic, so any breed could trigger your allergy. Smaller breeds naturally shed fewer skin cells though, so they are a better option for people with allergies.
- Vacuuming on a regular basis is vital for reducing allergies. If possible, vacuuming your sofas and carpets daily can greatly reduce the amount of pet dander in your home. The best vacuum cleaners also have strong filters so that dander isn’t released back into the air – read more about this here.
- Hard floors are much easier to clean. Dander can get caught deep in carpet fibres, which even the strongest vacuum will struggle to remove. If possible, replace carpets with hard floors in the rooms your dog will be in.
- Make sure you always keep your dog away from the bedroom. This is where you spend the most time and allergies can ruin your sleep quality.
- Always brush your dog outside.
- If you can’t replace your carpets, make sure they are cleaned with shampoo every few weeks.
- Wash your dog’s bed regularly.
If you have an allergy but still want a dog, it’s also a good idea to run a “trial” period.
Ask a dog owner whether you can look after their pet for a few days. This is an easy way to test whether you can manage your symptoms or if they are going to have a negative effect on your quality of life.
Guest Post by James Hall, Editor & Reviewer at SpotlessVacuum.co.uk