If you have dog allergies, you might be wondering about hypoallergenic dogs and their impact on your allergy symptoms. But hypoallergenic dogs may not live up to their harmless reputation. According to a new study, some breeds that are considered 'hypoallergenic', shed just as much pet dander as non-hypoallergenic breeds. The two main allergens that trigger dog allergies are known, for short, as Can f1 and Can f2, and they readily become airborne through skin flakes containing dog saliva, known as dander. If you are an animal lover but are unfortunate enough to suffer from allergies like asthma when exposed to dog dander, you might wonder whether some dogs are more likely to provoke allergies than others. This could well be an issue if you, or a family member, want to replace a beloved pet that has passed on, or whether you want to get a canine companion for the first time.
There are a number of dog breeds that are said to be hypoallergenic dogs - generally, as you might expect, those which are hairless or have short coats and therefore do not shed as much. The new report from researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit suggests that hypoallergenic dogs do not, in fact, shed any less pet dander than any other breed. They list 60 dog breeds, including 23 terriers and some with exotic names, like the Bouvier des Flandres and the Peruvian Inca Orchid, as being hypoallergenic. There were 190 one-dog families in the study and 17 of these did not let their dog indoors at all (and the researchers did not analyse dog allergen in these homes). All the families had a very young baby because the participants were recruited at an antenatal clinic and had their home visited one month after the birth. The researchers vacuumed up dust from the baby's bedroom and analysed it for the presence of Can f1. They found that 163 of the homes had detectable levels. What is more (although this wasn't the focus of this study) around half of the owners allowed the dog in the baby's bedroom? Needless to say, dog allergen levels were higher in these cases. But allergen levels did not depend upon the breed of dog. The researchers believe further research is needed to confirm whether the hypoallergenic dog label is of any use at all to people with an allergy to dog dander. So it could be that you might as well be guided by your heart, not the breed when choosing a dog
I noticed a couple of things about this paper that is worthwhile to mention. First, the low number of households in this sample - just 17 - who kept their dog outside. Second, the fact that around half of the owners let the dog into their baby's bedroom. This doesn't seem very sensible to me, for the presence of the dog allergen might sensitize the baby, leading him or her to develop childhood asthma or rhinitis. And if anyone else in the family had an allergy, all that dog dander floating around is likely to provoke an attack. If you do want to keep a dog indoors, a kennel by the door in the kitchen is a good idea. And here are a few more tips for keeping allergy at bay if there's a dog around.
Consider purchasing an allergy air purifier which filters animal dander particles, as well as odours, out of the air. A good allergy air purifier will lower the number of allergens in bedrooms or other rooms used by someone with asthma or another allergy.