Dogs & Allergies: Myth & Reality

There is a common belief that simple exposure to a dog increases the likelihood of developing allergies. Recent studies have proven this untrue. In fact, exposure to a dog or cat actually can help prevent later development of allergies.


For newborns that have not developed allergies, exposure to pets appears to actually decrease the risk. Research shows that where numbers of dogs and cats increased, hey fever, eczema, and other allergies decreased.

The situation is different if the child already has allergies. However, if a child's allergies are not due to pets, adding a dog or cat to the home appears to neither hurt nor help.

When it comes to pet allergies most people are not allergic to the pet's fur; rather they are allergic to its 'dander' or skin cells. Some may even be allergic to a pet's saliva.
Another popular myth is the hypoallergenic dog. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Dogs that are the closest to non-allergenic include breeds the have hair (rather than fur), dogs with very little fur or dogs that rarely shed. Your dog can also be bathed once or twice per week in a specially formulated shampoo formulated to reduce 'dander'.

Some breeds come very close to being hypoallergenic they include many terrier breeds (including the Kerry Blue and the soft-coated Wheaton), Poodles of all types, and Schnauzers of all types.

There is an easy way to test if a breed of dog is acceptable to your allergies. Arrange to visit the breeder and go without visiting any other dogs along the way. Be sure to spend some time inside where the dogs live, and ensure that you pet them, hug them and let them lick you. You should be 'exposed' to the dogs for at least 20 minutes (unless you begin to have an allergic reaction immediately). If you haven't reacted, go home and make sure you don't visit any other dogs for the rest of the day. If there isn't a delayed reaction, that breed should work for you!

July 31, 2005
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