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Hypoallergenic dogs, are they just a myth?

posted on 2017-03-26  15:26:33 By James Cave

Sorry to break it to you, but if you're a dog-lover who's allergic to pets, a hypoallergenic dog breed isn't going to help much, since they technically don't exist.

"Contrary to the many marketing claims made to appeal to people with allergies to pets, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog," Franklin D. McMillan, a veterinarian and director of well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society, told The Huffington Post in an email.

"People can be allergic to anything, although for any one person certain animal species, breeds and even individuals may trigger fewer allergy symptoms than others," he said.

Technically, the term "hypoallergenic" is defined my Merriam-Webster as "having little likelihood of causing an allergic response," but that is a bit of a misnomer when dogs are concerned, because all dogs carry proteins, which are responsible for triggering allergic reactions in dog-allergic patients.

"The most common cause of pet allergies is the dead, dried flakes (dander) from your pet's skin and the protein in the pet’s saliva that sticks to these flakes," McMillan said. "The pet’s hair itself isn’t a significant problem -- it’s the dander that is attached to the shed hairs. The fur and dander then stick to carpeting, furniture, and clothing."

So people who are allergic to dogs are really reacting to all the sticky proteins attached to the dog's hair, and if that dog sheds a lot, you're more likely to get exposed to the proteins.

As the seasons get colder and we spend more time indoors with our pets, it's handy to know how to deal with this issue.

"The question becomes how do we deal with the allergen," Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist based in New York City, told HuffPost.

He says that if you feel like you're having an allergic reaction to something, see an allergist who can evaluate your allergies based on questions and examinations.

Bassett recommends using HEPA air filters and keeping your pet out of bedroom, but admits that even if an animal is removed, it can take 6 to 8 months for the animal allergen to go away.

And if you're diagnosed as dog-allergic but still want one, McMillan says you might be able to ease the symptoms by trying the following:

  • Run an “experiment” -- spend time in houses of people who have different breeds of dogs or cats to see if any particular breed causes fewer allergy symptoms.
  • Bathe the pet once a week.
  • Opt for hard floors, which hold less fur and dander than carpeting.
  • Shampoo carpeting frequently.
  • Vacuum the house often, including furniture the pet spends time on.
  • Wash the pet’s bedding once a week.
  • Know that smaller dogs will shed less and thus spread less dander.
  • If reasonable, keep the pet out of the bedroom.
  • Purchase air purifiers and vent filters, which help reduce pet allergens in the environment.
  • If the allergy is from the pet’s saliva, avoid allowing that pet to lick you.

So while hypoallergenic dog breeds are as real as hypoallergenic unicorns -- or, if they exist somewhere, researchers haven't found them yet -- there are dogs, considered by the American Kennel Club, to have a predictable, non-shedding coat and do particularly well with allergy sufferers

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