So, you’ve always dreamed of owning a dog, but you suffer an allergy attack whenever you come into contact with one. Well, you’re not alone! According to statistics produced by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, almost ten percent of the U.S. population has an allergy to dogs.
If you are one of the unlucky ten percent with a dog allergy, don’t despair. You may still be able to own a dog, without suffering unpleasant side effects!
In this article, we find out what causes pet allergies and discuss what you can do to prevent a pooch’s presence from triggering an adverse reaction.
Also, we expose the myth of the 100 percent hypoallergenic dog!
- 1 What Are Dog Allergies?
- 2 Pet Dander
- 3 Hypoallergenic Dog Myths
- 4 20 Great Minimal Shedders
- 4.1 Maltese
- 4.2 Tibetan Terrier
- 4.3 Brussels Griffon
- 4.4 Shih Tzu
- 4.5 Portuguese Water Dog
- 4.6 Poodle
- 4.7 West Highland White Terrier
- 4.8 Kerry Blue Terrier
- 4.9 Chinese Crested
- 4.10 Scottish Terrier
- 4.11 Cairn Terrier
- 4.12 Irish Water Spaniel
- 4.13 Labradoodle
- 4.14 Border Terrier
- 4.15 Schnauzer
- 4.16 Yorkshire Terrier
- 4.17 Australian Silky Terrier
- 4.18 Bouvier Des Flandres
- 4.19 Basenji
- 4.20 American Hairless Terrier
- 5 Wrap Up
What Are Dog Allergies?
First of all, let’s talk about what’s causing your allergy and what symptoms you may be suffering.
Pet allergies cause a few well-recognized symptoms, including:
- A runny nose
- Watering eyes
- Tight, closed feeling in your chest
You may suffer any or all of these effects whether a dog is present or not. Allergy sufferers are often affected just by entering a room where a dog has been or by spending time around dog owners who have been in close contact with their pets. So, how come?
Well, pet allergies are caused by pet dander that remains in the environment, even when the animal has gone.
Pet dander is a substance that’s made up of tiny flecks of skin that are shed by any creature that has fur or feathers. These microscopic fragments of skin can cause allergic reactions in people who are vulnerable to these specific triggers. Dogs that shed their coat excessively or frequently are prime causes of dog allergies. That’s because each hair that’s shed carries with it a tiny fragment of skin.
In addition to pet dander, your pet’s saliva, feces, and urine can also cause an allergic reaction in those who are susceptible. Where dogs are concerned, it’s the Can f II protein in your furry friend’s saliva that causes the problem. Dried saliva that’s loaded with allergens flakes away from the dog’s fur after he’s licked himself and becomes airborne. You inhale this protein-loaded dusty substance as it floats unseen around your home, and the allergic symptoms begin.
In the same way, dust from dried dog feces can enter the air, and the unsuspecting allergy sufferer breathes it in. Even if you take your dog outside for a walk or to the dog park for a bathroom break, tiny drops of urine stuck to the dog’s fur can be brought back into your home. When the urine dries, tiny flakes enter the atmosphere and are inhaled, triggering your dog allergy.
How Dander Spreads
The fragments of dander have rough, ragged edges and are also incredibly lightweight. That means that the dander floats in the air and sticks to every surface it touches such as your clothes, carpets, drapes, and furniture.
So, every time you walk around your home, you will disturb the dust in your carpets. The dander-laden dust then floats up into the air, sticks to your clothes, and hitches a ride with you wherever you go. So, you could unwittingly transfer pet dander into an environment that’s never even seen a dog such as your local mall, your office, your medical center, or even on an airplane.
You get the picture.
What happens next?
After you’ve inhaled these minute particles of urine, saliva, feces, or skin, your immune system goes into overdrive, thinking germs are attacking it. In people with allergies, their immune system assumes that these harmless doggy proteins are dangerous invaders and creates an antibody to deal with them.
Each time your body encounters the trigger proteins, the antibodies stimulate mast cells. The mast cells release chemicals called histamines, which attack the invading proteins, and in doing so, cause the allergy symptoms mentioned above.
As long as you’re exposed to the trigger proteins, the allergic reaction continues. That’s when a dog allergy can get dangerous, as prolonged allergy attacks can lead to severe secondary complications such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthma.
Getting Rid of Dander
So, how do you get rid of dog dander?
There are several ways of reducing the amount of allergy-causing dog dander in your home.
- Groom your dog daily to reduce the amount of dander that’s produced. Always groom your pet outside your home and use a dust mask to keep the dander from flying up into your face as you brush him.
- Don’t bathe your dog too often. Although you might think that washing your dog every day is a good way of keeping the dander problem under control, frequent bathing can dry out your pet’s skin, causing even more flaking and exacerbating your allergy problem!Instead, use pet wipes each day to smooth down the coat, remove dander, and keep your pet smelling fresh. An application of coat conditioner is also a good idea, as this can help to slow down the shedding process.
- Vacuum your home daily. If possible, use a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner. If possible, avoid using a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t have a bag, as emptying the dust container will expose you to allergens. If you have a cylinder vacuum cleaner, remember to put on a dust mask before you empty the bin of debris.Be sure to vacuum all areas of your home, including walls, rugs, furniture, draperies, blinds, and carpets.
- Use a HEPA air filter in your home.
- Use anti-allergen sprays around all areas in your home to which your dog has access. Choose an anti-allergen spray that’s tannic-based or pick products that use alkaline substances or enzymes that will break down the problem-causing proteins.Vacuum each room before spraying, and always test a small area of your carpets or drapes for colorfastness and staining.
- Restrict your dog’s access to particular areas of your home. Especially, keep Fido off your bed and out of your bedroom. Ideally, your bedroom should be a dander-free zone so that your body can enjoy at least eight hours each night when you’re not exposed to allergens.
- Wash your dog’s toys and bedding frequently to get rid of dried saliva, urine, and feces.
Another way of controlling your dog allergy is to have regular immunotherapy or allergy shots. Immunotherapy works by gradually increasing the dose of an allergen that you receive. Over time, that builds your tolerance to the allergen, reducing or eliminating your symptoms.
To find out more about immunotherapy, have a chat with your family doctor.
Hypoallergenic Dog Myths
You may have heard that certain breeds of dogs are hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic dogs are said not to cause dog allergies, but is that really true?
Well, according to a study carried out in 2011, dust samples from homes with reportedly hypoallergenic breeds of dogs were tested, along with samples taken from homes with other breeds. All the samples were found to contain the same levels of dust and dander.
Therefore, it’s true to say that the 100 percent hypoallergenic dog is really just an urban myth and not even an interesting fact.
That said, there are a large number of dogs that are minimal shedders. In theory, minimal shedding means less dander. So, if you opt for one of these breeds and take note of our dander control suggestions above, you could still own a dog and not suffer for it!
20 Great Minimal Shedders
Here’s our top 20 breeds that could be suitable for you if you have a dog allergy.
The Maltese is famous for his show-stopping, floor-length, flowing white coat.
Maltese are members of the toy breed group, only weighing up to seven pounds. If you go for a Maltese, you’ll find them playful, charming, lovable little dogs that won’t shed much.
Tibetan terriers are small, bushy coated dogs that shed minimally. However, you’ll still need to groom your dog frequently to keep their coat in good condition.
Also known as the “Holy Dog of Tibet,” the Tibetan terrier was initially used as a watchdog and companion in Buddhist monasteries. Tibetan terriers are known to be intelligent, sensitive, and loving.
If you live in a small apartment and you don’t have kids, the Brussels griffon could make a perfect pocket-sized pet that hardly sheds at all.
The toy Brussels griffon is a friendly breed that’s fiercely loyal to one person.
The Shih Tzu is another member of the toy group. These little dogs are friendly and loyal, and they are also minimal shedders. In fact, the “Lion Dog’s” coat only falls out when it’s brushed or broken.
If you choose a Shih Tzu, you’ll be joining a long line of owners that goes back over 1,000 years!
Portuguese Water Dog
If you’d prefer a larger canine companion, you might like to consider the Portuguese water dog.
Athletic, affectionate, and adventurous, the Portuguese water dog is a member of the working group. These pups have a short, curly coat that sheds minimally. A large Portuguese water dog can grow to weigh around 50 pounds, measuring up to 23 inches at the shoulder, so you’ll need a spacious home and garden if you want to own one of these pups.
West Highland White Terrier
The Westie is another breed that barely sheds, making them a suitable choice for dog allergy sufferers.
Westies are friendly, active little dogs that are unstintingly loyal and make excellent watchdogs. The Westie may be small, but the breed has been around for over 300 years and is the most popular of the small terrier group.
Kerry Blue Terrier
The Kerry blue terrier is also known as the Irish blue.
These intelligent, alert dogs were used as working dogs for such duties as guarding livestock, hunting pests, and herding. Kerry blues have a very fine, curly coat that’s similar in texture to human hair and does not shed.
The Kerry blue is one of the largest of the terrier group and is popular for his companionship and watchdog qualities.
The Chinese crested is a very unusual breed with a strange, bald-skinned look that’s not going to appeal to everyone. There are two varieties of Chinese crested; the hairless and the powderpuff. Both types shed very little and are considered suitable for dog allergy sufferers.
The tiny Chinese crested originates from Africa. However, Chinese traders used the dogs on board their ships to control vermin, and the breed was therefore renamed the Chinese crested.
The Scottish terrier, or Scottie, makes a very loyal companion.
These short, stocky members of the terrier group are high-spirited and confident. Some owners say that their Scotties are almost human! Also, the breed has a short, wiry coat that doesn’t shed much.
Hailing from Scotland, the Cairn is another member of the terrier group. The breed’s name derives from the large stone piles (cairns) in which the dogs were used for hunting vermin.
The Cairn’s short, wiry coat is water-repellent and known for its low shedding. Happy, curious, and bright, your Cairn will enjoy having somewhere he can dig and explore, so keen gardeners beware!
Irish Water Spaniel
The Irish water spaniel is a member of the sporting group and has been around for several centuries. If you’re looking for a larger dog, these guys can weigh about 58 pounds and measure up to 24 inches at the shoulder.
The Irish water spaniel was originally used as a companion and hunting dog, being active, friendly, and devoted to his owners. Although you’ll need to groom your dog regularly to keep his coat in good condition, the breed doesn’t shed much and is thus considered suitable for those with pet allergies.
The Labradoodle is a relatively modern designer breed that’s a cross between a Labrador retriever and a miniature or standard poodle. Although each dog’s temperament is inherited in part from each of his parents, well-bred Labradoodles are generally friendly, good-natured types that are low shedders.
The Border terrier is a brave, affectionate breed that was bred to hunt rodents and foxes. Recognized by fanciers as a rugged, sturdy terrier, the Border has a wiry coat that sheds very little and gets by with a brief weekly brushing.
Although these little dogs are perfect for people with pet allergies, you might want to steer clear of them if you have small pets such as rabbits or rats, as the Border’s hunting instinct is still very strong!
The popular Schnauzer comes in three sizes, miniature, standard, and giant. All versions of the breed have a low-shedding coat and would make a suitable companion for someone with a dog allergy.
The German Schnauzer breed was used originally as guard dogs, watchdogs, and for catching vermin. The Schnauzer is a high-energy, companionable breed that would suit an active, outdoorsy family.
The cute but spunky Yorkie shouldn’t be underestimated! The breed was originally bred to catch rats in the mines and mills of Yorkshire, England. Later, the glorious, glossy, floor-sweeping coat of the Yorkie caught the eye of Victorian ladies who quickly adopted the breed as a pampered lapdog.
Despite the Yorkie’s luxuriant coat, the breed is a light-shedder that would be suitable for a dog lover with a pet allergy and they also live quite a while.
Australian Silky Terrier
The Australian silky terrier is a close relative of the Yorkshire terrier. It’s thought that the Aussie terrier resulted from cross-breeding various terrier type dogs that were brought to Australia by early colonists. Fearless and tough, Aussies were used as all-purpose exterminators, tackling small mammals and even snakes!
The breed is brave and bold but equally devoted and enjoys nothing more than a cuddle with their owner. Also, the Aussie’s silky coat hardly sheds, which is good news for dog allergy sufferers.
Bouvier Des Flandres
The Bouvier des Flandres is named for their original occupation as the “cow herder of Flandres.” The barrel-chested, burly breed was used for herding and as a watchdog.
Modern Bouvier des Flandres have seen service as police dogs and guard dogs. But these low-shedding dogs are also known to be gentle, loyal, companions.
The Basenji originates from Central Africa where the breed was used as a hunting dog.
Typically independent and somewhat challenging to train, the Basenji is also intelligent and friendly. The breed’s coat is short and takes little grooming to keep it looking good. Also, the Basenji is a very light shedder.
A Basenji is one of few breeds that don’t bark. Instead, these pups howl, which could be something to bear in mind if you have near neighbors who want a peaceful life!
American Hairless Terrier
The American hairless terrier is a native of Louisiana, and he’s the perfect choice for those with a dog allergy who want a pet. You’ll find the breed to be smart, curious, and very playful with a coat that barely sheds.
The American hairless terrier is a naturally occurring variety of the Rat terrier. Rat terriers came to the U.S. from England in the 1800s and were used to exterminate rats that spread disease and plundered food stores on farms and in townships.
The American hairless terrier was initially called the “Feist” because of his feisty nature. Feists also played a role as sporting dogs where they were used in the infamous rat pits, where crowds gambled on the number of rats they thought their favorite Feist would kill.
Just because you have a dog allergy, that doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the joys of dog ownership!
As you’ve seen from this article, there are at least 20 fabulous dog breeds of different sizes and personalities that you could consider, all of which shed their coats minimally, making them suitable for allergy sufferers.
However, it’s important to remember that dog allergy is typically caused by pet dander, rather than by dog hair. That means you’ll need to groom your pet daily, vacuum your home at least once a day, and use a HEPA filter to keep your home free from dander.
If you visit the homes of friends who have dogs, your allergy could still be triggered. Before you get your own dog, it’s sensible to speak to your family doctor for more advice on immunotherapy or other allergy treatment that might be suitable for you.