Hypoallergenic Dog Breed
Article: General Information » Hypoallergenic Dog Breed
The name Hypoallergenic dog breed is commonly used to refer to a dog breed (or crossbreed) that is more compatible with allergic persons than other breeds. However, prominent allergen researchers have claimed that there is no basis to the claims that certain dog breeds are hypoallergenic and, while allergen levels vary among individual dogs, the breed is not a significant factor.
Though some studies suggest the possible existence of hypoallergenic dog breeds, there is too much variability to conclude that such a breed exists. According to researchers, the myth that a such a breed exists may have been fueled by unsubstantiated claims on the internet. In a recent interview, Christine Cole Johnson Ph.D., MPH explained that it was unclear where the name hypoallergenic dog breed came from, and asserted that the existence of such a breed was just a legend; the findings of her latest article published in the July issue of The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy support these claims. The significant allergens are proteins found in the dog’s saliva and dander. Some studies have suggested that the production of the allergen, and therefore human allergenic reaction, varies by breed, yet more recent scientific findings indicate that there are no significant differences between breeds in the generation of these allergens.
Also, breeds that shed less are more likely to be hypoallergenic, since the dog’s dander and saliva stick to the hair and are not released into the environment. But protein expression levels play a major role and amount of shedding alone does not determine degree of allergic reaction. “Even if you get a hairless dog, it’s still going to produce the allergen,” Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, chair of the Indoor Allergen Committee for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology is quoted in the newsmagazine U.S. News & World Report as saying. How hypoallergenic a particular dog is for a particular person may vary with the individual dog and the individual person.
If a person is allergic, they may be best able to tolerate a specific dog, possibly of one of the hypoallergenic breeds. Dr. Thomas A. Platts-Mills, head of the Asthma and Allergic Disease Center at the University of Virginia, explained that there are cases in which a specific dog (not breed) might be better tolerated by a specific person, for unknown reasons. “We think there really are differences in protein production between dogs that may help one patient and not another,” Dr. Platts-Mills said.
All dogs shed, and all dogs produce dander and saliva in some degree. As noted above, the amount of the allergenic protein present on the dander and in saliva varies by breed. Also, the amount of the allergen can be reduced or eliminated in individual dogs by treatments such as bathing. But for most breeds, when not regularly bathed, even a dog who sheds very little or has little dander can trigger a reaction in a sensitive person.
Effect of Size
Size may be a factor in determining hypoallergenicity. It is possible that the total body surface area of the dog is more indicative of reduced production of allergens than its breed.
Smaller dogs will also leave fewer environmental pollutants containing dog dander and dog allergens (reduced fecal matter, urine and saliva). Small hairless dogs may be less likely to cause allergic reactions “because it’s so easy to bathe them and the dander falls off them.” Dogs may leave behind urine, saliva and fecal matter as allergen sources. Dogs with access to the outdoors may introduce outdoor allergens such as mold and pollen with larger animals tracking in more of these allergens. It is well established that most individuals with dog allergy also suffer with additional environmental allergies. Individuals with dog allergy may also be at increased risk for human protein hypersensitivity with cross-reactivity of dog dander allergen and human seminal fluid.
Effect of Barking
Excessive barking may also contribute to higher levels of allergen dispersal, as saliva and dander are projected from the animal during barking. Thus, many small breeds that are known for excessive barking may not be ideal, despite their smaller total body surface area. Those with dog allergy sensitivities seeking to adopt may wish to identify a small dog with a calm temperament.
Researchers have shown that frequently bathing dogs reduces the amount of allergen related protein on the fur or hair of the dog and the amount of airborne allergen. Bathing a dog at least twice a week will minimize or even eliminate the reaction of an allergic person to a dog.
Frequent cleaning and vacuuming of the home, using air filters, restricting the dog to certain rooms, and adopting a small dog that can easily be given frequent baths are all recommended by the Humane Society of the United States to control allergens. Scientific research has repeatedly shown that good cleaning practices in the home remove allergens from the environment.
Many allergists suggest that a dog not be introduced to the environment of a dog allergic individual. There is some concern that continued exposure may lead to asthma. While “allergy shots” can reduce many individuals dog allergic reactions, the most common approach remains avoidance.
There have been recent studies suggesting early introduction of pets to home may reduce the likelihood of developing sensitization. There are reports of individuals who will become less sensitive with continued exposure to a pet in the environment. But allergists warn that pet owners cannot rely on a breed being non-allergenic just because a particular allergic pet owner can tolerate a specific dog of that breed.
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