Every time you look at those adorable puppies you fall in love, but apparently that feeling of love also comes with congestion and itchy eyes. You’re not alone: an estimated 10 percent of the population is allergic to pets. And you’re even more prone if you suffer from other allergies or asthma.
Here’s the good news: if you have mild to moderate pet allergies, there are many “hypoallergenic” dog breeds out there for you to adopt. Just know that adopting these specific breeds requires a little extra research and care. So let’s take a look at the possible causes of your allergies, as well as some tips and ideas for dealing with dog allergies.
What Triggers My Allergies?
It’s pretty easy to assume that pet allergies are caused by fur, but the true culprit is what lies underneath: pet dander! More specifically, the thousands of dead skin particles that flake off the surface and become airborne. Those furry dogs that shed everywhere tend to produce a lot of dander, which is why your allergies can be much more severe in their presence. Non-shedding breeds typically produce very minimal dander and are therefore considered “hypoallergenic”.
Your immune system reacts to foreign invaders by producing proteins known as antibodies. Unfortunately with allergies, your body mistakes all this animal dander as harmful and antibodies react by releasing chemicals such as histamines to defend itself. This ultimately leads to your runny nose and awful watery eyes.
It’s important to note that all dogs produce some level of dander, meaning there is no such thing as a 100 percent hypoallergenic dog. If you suffer from extreme allergies, then it’s unlikely you’ll find any dog that you can be around for an extended period of time. But if you have minor to moderate allergies, you’re in luck; you can choose a hypoallergenic dog breed to suit your family and lifestyle.
NOTE: Keep in mind that allergic reactions can also be triggered from your pet’s saliva and urine.
The Difference Between Coats
When it comes to coats, dogs can be separated into two distinct categories: shedding and non-shedding. Shedding dogs can have a whole variety of coat types, ranging from long and fuzzy, to short and sleek. Looks can be deceiving, and even dogs as tiny as a Chihuahua will still shed and produce dander.
What we’re after is non-shedding coats. The difference here is these dogs grow hair, not fur, and they produce very little dander, which helps to minimize your allergic response.
Caring For Your Hypoallergenic Dog
As a hypoallergenic dog owner, you have a few extra responsibilities, which mainly comes down to proper grooming. Remember these dogs grow hair, so it’s very similar to the hair on your own head. It needs regular brushing, bathing, and the occasional haircut (generally every 4 to 6 weeks). It’s important to make this part of your regular routine, because untamed hair quickly turns into mats and tangles. These mats will continuously tighten over time and pull on this skin, which leads to bruising and even permanent hair loss! It feels like someone tying a weight to your hair, and every time you move it tugs on your scalp. A little grooming can go a long way to keeping your dog healthy and happy.
I Have a Hypoallergenic Dog And Still Get Allergies Sometimes
Remember how I said all dogs produce pet dander? Well, that dander can build up over time. If your pup goes without proper grooming for a few months, those skin particles continue to flourish and spread. Even if you have mild allergies, that buildup can create an allergic reaction. In short: brushing and bathing will keep that coat healthy and keep dander under control.
Why Not Completely Shave Your Shedding Dog?
In my grooming shop I get asked about this several times a week. “I have a shedding Labrador, so I just want to shave off all her hair off so my allergies won’t be a problem”. Some of my clients swear up and down that this absolutely relieves their allergies, but I’m sorry to say that it really doesn’t. In some cases, it actually makes things worse! Remember, you don’t have allergic reactions to hair, but from the dander produced from the skin. By shaving your dog, you further expose the skin and allow more dander to become airborne.
There is also a real danger to shaving a doubled coated breed. First, it makes them extremely uncomfortable and itchy for several months as the sharp hair roots grow back in. But an even bigger concern is stripping them away from their natural protection and their ability to regulate body temperature.
Many owners mistakenly believe that shaving off their dog’s coat will provide relief in the hot summer months, but a dog’s fur actually insulates her from heat and sun rays. Shaving a shedding breed removes much needed protection and drastically increases health risks.
Do Your Research Before Adopting
As an allergy sufferer, you can avoid a lot of heartbreak by doing your homework before adopting a dog. Recognize which breeds are hypoallergenic and which ones are not, and be extra careful with mixes and crossbreeds. Mixing a shedding and non-shedding dog does not always create a hypoallergenic litter. Dealing with dog allergies is always best before you bring your new pet home, not afterwards. And of course, always remember to choose the breed that best suits your family and lifestyle.
About the Author:
Shayla McConnell: “I absolutely knew I wanted to work with dogs from the time I was born, and that’s exactly what I did. Straight out of high school I went to college and shortly after was hired as a Veterinary Technical Assistant at a local practice. However, after several years in the medical field I felt it was time to try something slightly different. So I tried my hand at professional dog grooming and instantly fell in love. I now run a blog called PlayBarkRun.com where I share all my experience with other dog owners. No matter what field I’m in, I feel most at home dedicating my time to dogs and helping owners.”
EDITOR’s NOTE: Be sure to check out my article, So The Kids Want a Dog: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First before bringing a new pet into your home.