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The Allergy-Free Dog: Real or a Myth?

August 09, 2011 | 11,427 views
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allergy free dogA new study to be published online in The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy reveals that the amount of dog allergens found in households with dogs does not vary depending on the breed.

In other words, families with so called 'hypoallergenic' dogs are living with the same level of allergens in their homes as people who own non-hypoallergenic canines.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Christine Cole Johnson, an epidemiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and senior author of the study, had this to say about low-allergy or allergy-free dogs:

"I have no idea where this whole concept came from. It's been around a long time, and maybe people associated it with shedding. I think it's just a legend."

Study researchers measured the level of the most common dog allergen, Canis familiaris 1, or Can f 1, found in the homes of 173 families that owned one dog. Out of the 173 samples, only 10 had less than measurable amounts of Can f 1. No matter what type of dog was in the home, there was no significant difference in the level of allergens measured.

Dr. Becker's Comments:

No one seems to know how the myth of allergy-free dogs got started.

The scientists who conducted the study discussed in the linked articles discovered 60 of 161 recognized breeds were named as hypoallergenic on various Internet websites.

There is no official list of hypoallergenic breeds, though the American Kennel Club (AKC) does suggest 11 canine candidates for people with allergies. These are:

  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Schnauzer
  • Bichon Frise
  • Maltese
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Chinese Crested
  • Poodle
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Portuguese Water Dog

 

According to a spokesperson for the AKC, the kennel club only suggests certain breeds might be beneficial for allergy sufferers – it doesn't recommend or endorse any specific breed. The spokesperson, Christina Duffney-Carey, does say:

"There are many breeds with consistent and predictable coats that we suggest for allergy sufferers. These breeds have nonshedding coats, which produce less dander."

How This Study Differs from Previous Studies on Dog Allergens

Studies conducted in the past looked at the skin and hair of dogs to measure and compare the amount of allergens contained on individual dogs. The results showed wide variations from dog to dog, but not from breed to breed.

According to the Times, the study authored by Dr. Cole is the first of its kind and is "… based on a sample scientifically selected to be representative of the national population to look at the actual dispersal of allergens in homes."

The researchers set out to see whether so-called 'hypoallergenic' pups were shedding less Canis familiaris 1 around their homes.

The study involved 173 single dog homes, and 163 of those produced measurable levels of Can f 1. Even though there weren't enough dogs of each breed to analyze results by breed, the researchers compared allergen levels across various categories of purebred and mixed-breed dogs, both supposedly 'hypoallergenic' and non-hypoallergenic. They even compared the AKC-suggested hypoallergenic breeds against all other dogs.

No matter how they did their comparisons, the scientists found no statistically significant differences in the levels of Can f 1 in dust samples in those 163 homes.

Per Dr. Cole:

"You can't be assured that some breed is going to produce less allergen than another. Allergists, based on their experience, really think that it's just individual dogs who have some variations based on genetics or behavior, who produce more allergens than others. But it's not going to be a breed classification that predicts that."

Suggestions for Controlling Pet Allergens in Your Home

  • Feed your pet an anti-inflammatory, species-appropriate diet. By reducing allergenic foods going into your pet you can reduce allergenic saliva coming out of your pet.
  • Make sure your pet's essential fatty acid requirements are met. By assuring your dog or kitty has optimal levels of EFA's in the diet, you can reduce shedding and dander associated with EFA deficiency. Adding coconut oil has also proven to help reduce dander and shedding.
  • Bathe your pet often. Even kitties can be bathed regularly, but take special care to use only safe, non-drying herbal animal shampoos. Whatever you do, avoid using people shampoo on your dog or cat, and skip any shampoo containing oatmeal.
  • Invest in a good-quality vacuum designed for households with pets.
  • Clean your home frequently and thoroughly, including any surfaces that trap pet hair and dander like couch covers, pillows and pet beds. This will also help control other allergens in your home that could be contributing to the allergic load of family members.
  • Wash bedding frequently in hot water.
  • If your pet rides in the car with you, consider using washable seat covers.
  • Purchase a good quality air purifier for your home. I highly recommend the Pure & Clear Air Purifier available through Mercola.com.
  • Remove carpeting, drapes and other fabric that traps animal dander. Tile or wood floors are much easier to clean of allergens.
  • Family members should wash their hands after playing with a pet, and if children roll around on the floor or grass with their animals, they should bathe or shower and shampoo before bed so they don't transfer pet allergens onto their pj's and bedding.
  • Create a pet-free area in your home, which will probably be the bedroom of your allergic family member. Do not allow the pet(s) access to the designated pet-free area under any circumstances.
  • Familiarize yourself with the hygiene hypothesis – the idea that we can be too clean for our own good and underexpose our immune system to common microbes in the environment. There is evidence children exposed to animals before their immune systems are fully developed at around age two do not go on to develop allergies.

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