US president-elect Barack Obama is on the hunt for a hypoallergenic dog to take to the White House but many allergy experts and organisations question whether there is such a dog.
After sweeping to victory in the US presidential election Barack Obama announced that he and his family were on the hunt for a hypoallergenic dog to join them in the White House in January. Obama's eldest daughter Malia, though an animal lover, unfortunately suffers an allergy to dogs.
As any subject surrounding the Obama's this has generated a huge buzz about hypoallergenic dogs. There are a number of websites which claim some breeds of dog do not trigger allergies at all in those with dog allergies. Purebred poodles and the popular hybrid 'labradoodle' are often touted as being hypoallergenic or allergy-free but many allergy experts and organisations believe this is wishful thinking.
In dogs the major allergen is a protein found in the blood which is then excreted through the sebaceous glands in the skin. The sweat and shedding of skin cells (often referred to as "dander" in combination with fur) are therefore the biggest source of dog allergen. Experts say the allergen also gets secreted into the saliva and to a lesser extent the urine but these are obviously more minor sources.
Organisations such as The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) have tried to correct misconceptions about the matter raised by the media attention surrounding the Obamas. They announced Wednesday that there is "no truly hypoallergenic dog."
Looking at the issue of hypoallergenic dog breeds there doesn't seem to be much scientific evidence that some breeds are better than others. A German study published earlier this year which tracked allergy sufferers reactions to different dog breeds found that factors related to differences in individual dogs was more influential than breed or sex.
So what could influence the allergenicity of a dog? The size of dog could matter with smaller dogs being less problematic due to the total amount of allergen produced being less. Hair length and the amount of shedding could also make a difference particularly if the home isn't cleaned regularly and the hair is allowed to accumulate.
The AAAAI points out however that the allergen evaporates from the dog's hair and becomes airbourne, triggering symptoms, so in that sense the length of hair and amount of shedding actually doesn't matter.
To minimize allergy symptoms, the AAAI offers these tips to the Obamas and families everywhere where dog allergies are an issue:
Keep pets out of the allergic person's bedroom. Animal dander collects on pillows which can worsen symptoms during the night.
Bathe animals weekly to reduce the amount of dander.
Replace carpeting with hardwood or other solid surfaces for easier cleanups.
Air filters (HEPA) may help clean the air.
- It may also be helpful to wash bedding and clothing in hot water.
Doghealthrevealed.com also has some useful tips for choosing a dog when there are allergies in the family:
"If choosing a dog from a breeder, try spending at least 30 minutes playing with the dog and being in the dogs area to see how you react to it.
If you have a severe reaction in that amount of time, then you can be assured that having it as a live-in would not be a good idea.
If youre choosing a breeder who lives a substantial distance away, send a clothing item to the breeder and ask them to place it near the dog for a day and send it back to you in a plastic bag. Wear the clothing item or breathe in the smell and see how you react.
If no reaction, you might want to consider visiting the breeder in person. If you do get a negative reaction, its best not to waste your time visiting in person. The allergic reaction would probably be worse if you were around the real thing."