In The News: Is There Such a Thing as an Allergy-free Dog?

Reader Contribution by Justine Patton
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Dogs are great. They cheer you up when you’re feeling down, are always down for a friendly game of catch, and will curl up sweetly with you when you feel like cuddling. I’m not the only one who feels this way–in 2009, there were 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States, and 39 percent of households owned at least one dog.

There are actually many health benefits of owning a pet: 

• Owning a pet can help lower blood pressure. High blood pressure affects one in three adults in the United States, and can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke.

• Keeping a pet around can also lower cholesterol levels, which can help the 42 million Americans who suffer from high cholesterol, an ailment that can often lead to heart disease.

• “Man’s best friend” helps you feel less lonely. Those who own pets report that they feel lonely less often than those who do not.

However, a recent study held bad news for dog lovers who also suffer from pet allergies. The study found that hypoallergenic dogs may not be any better for those with pet allergies than non-hypoallergenic dogs. 

It turns out that hypoallergenic dogs, such as the miniature schnauzer,
may not be so “allergy-free” after all.
Photo by Candie_N/Courtesy

Hypoallergenic dogs are thought to shed less pet dander, and as a result do not cause as severe of an allergic reaction in individuals with dog allergies. In the United States, about 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs. The breeds included in the American Kennel Club’s list of hypoallergenic dogs include:

• Bedlington Terrier 
• Bichon Frise 
• Chinese Crested 
• Irish Water Spaniel 
• Kerry Blue Terrier 
• Maltese 
• Poodles (Toy, Miniature or Standard) 
• Portuguese Water Dog 
• Schnauzer (Miniature, Standard or Giant) 
• Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier 
• Xoloitzcuintli 

Researchers analyzed the pet dander, the substance that most often causes dog allergies, in homes with both types of dogs and found that the amount of dander was about the same. But don’t despair, dog lovers. The Mayo Clinic has a few recommendations for the treatment of dog allergies that will allow you to keep your dog with only a few changes in your life. Of course, the first suggestion is to just avoid being around the dog. This, however, is not an option if you want to keep Fido in your life. So, moving right along …

There are many medications that can help you cope with your allergies, depending on the severity of symptoms. These include:

• Antihistamines: These medications prevent your immune system from producing the chemical that is the cause of an allergic reaction. Most are in liquid or tablet form.
• Corticosteroids: These nasal sprays reduce the inflammation of your nasal passages and help control the symptoms associated with hay fever.
• Decongestants: These help make it easier to breathe through your nose by shrinking swollen tissues in the nasal passages.

For more information on the treatment of pet allergies, visit your primary care physician.

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