Individuals with pet allergies are not actually allergic to cat, dog, hamster, rabbit, or horse hair but to the dander that each animal sheds. Dander in furry animals is similar to dandruff in humans and even animals that do not shed fur shed dander into the environment. With that being said, is there any way that people with dog allergies can happily own a dog? We take a look at the top hypoallergenic dogs:
Most allergy specialists will recommend that individuals with pet allergies do not bring furry, dander-producing pets into their home. This is well-intended and sound advice — are dogs “good” for allergy sufferers? Physically, no. Allergy sufferers would likely be more physically comfortable not sharing their home with a furry pet. For allergy sufferers with mild to moderate reactions, the emotional benefits of having a pet trump the physical discomfort or a runny nose, sneezing or itchy eyes. Individuals with severe allergic reactions should heed their allergist’s warning and avoid adopting a furry pet.
If you’re one who will not be dissuaded, there are breeds which tend to produce relatively low-allergen dogs. Generally, these breeds are characterized by an assortment of coat types — very curly coated dogs (ex. Poodles of all sizes, Portuguese Water Dogs, Bedlington Terriers, Bichon Frises), hairless dogs (ex. American Crested, Chinese Crested Hairless), corded dogs (ex. Puli, Komondor, poodles), and wirehaired dogs (Wirehaired Fox Terrier, Broken Coat Parson/Jack Russell Terrier, Wirehaired Dachshund, Rough Coat Brussels Griffon, etc.). These breeds tend to have less fur than other breeds, but more importantly, generally shed less dander.
The curly-coated and corded dogs require significant grooming commitments. Many of these breeds are high energy and can be challenging — they require a lot of physical and mental stimulation to live happily in a home. Many of them require experienced dog owners and are not good “getting your dog ownership feet wet” breeds.
If you choose to bring a pet into the home despite the inevitable allergy symptoms, consult with your allergist about appropriate air filters and vacuums — clean frequently and thoroughly. Keep your dog out of the bedroom at all times. Bathe your dog once every four weeks using anti-allergenic shampoos. Ask your allergist about cleaning products that can help reduce the allergens in the home.
Many allergists will recommend that the dog should live outside. Virtually every behavior expert would strongly disagree. Dogs are social creatures and desire companionship. Your dog would much rather live in your house than in your yard, and relegating him to the backyard may produce any number of unwanted behaviors, including but not limited to: barking, digging, destruction of property; and are also subject to injury, poisoning, attacks by other dogs or wild animals and even unscrupulous humans. If you get a dog, make him part of your family by allowing him to live inside.
Often, the designer dog craze, which revolves around mixing a poodle with nearly every other breed on the planet to play on the heartstrings and wallets of allergy sufferers seeking hypoallergenic dogs, is misleading to potential pet owners. Do not assume that mixed breeds with one poodle parent will automatically be low-allergen dogs.
Breeders of mixed breed dogs should be held to the same high standards as any breeders — insist on health checks appropriate to both parent breeds, meet both parents if possible (and the mother at a minimum), view the areas where the puppies will be whelped, ask for detailed descriptions of the type of socialization the puppies are provided with, look for breed-appropriate titles and conformation championships.
Science has also taken notice of the pet-owning/allergy-suffering quandary. A company called allerca has created what they call “lifestyle pets.” Allerca has allegedly produced the world’s first “scientifically proven hypoallergenic cats and dogs.” For as “little” as $5,000 (this is a special, limited time price) and as much as $16,000, you can bring one of these lifestyle pets into your home.
Obtaining one of these pets involves a 9-12 month wait list at this time. While these prices are out of reach for many pet allergy sufferers, the fact that this type of research is being done bodes well for the future of allergy sufferers who are also animal lovers. Perhaps someday, truly hypoallergenic dogs and other pets will be available to individuals with dog and cat allergies.
Until then, there are a number of low-allergen dog breeds that are worth considering. Careful research will help you decide which breed is the best match for your family. Once you bring your new pet home, meticulous cleaning to remove dander from the environment, as well as allergy medication prescribed by your allergist, and keeping your dog’s coat clean and healthy will help keep the sneezing, wheezing and red, itchy eyes to a minimum.
Thumbnail: A Jack Russell Terrier chewing on his Kong. Photography by Shutterstock.
Read more about dog allergies on Dogster.com: