Have you always wanted a dog but can’t because you or someone in your family have allergies? Well, adding man’s best friend to your family could be possible if it’s a low-shed or single-coated breed — more commonly known as “hypoallergenic dog breeds”.
Pet allergy sufferers are actually sensitive to a protein called Can F1, which is found in a dog or cat’s saliva and urine. This protein can also be found in the dander (dead skin flakes) of the pet.
According to ENT specialist Dr Lynne Lim of LynneLim Nose Throat & Hearing Centre, the dander and saliva get caught in the fur of your pet, which can trigger allergies. “When these allergens get into our respiratory system of the nose, throat and lung airways, the respiratory mucosa lining of our airways gets inflamed and swell,” she says.
“Dander is challenging to control as it is very small and remains airborne for long periods of time. Dog and cat dander have been found in the house even three to six months after they have left the home – it sticks to your clothes, sofas and carpets.”
One way to tell how a certain dog might affect allergies is for all members of the household to spend time around it before bringing it home for good. Allergy tests are also available to those who want more thorough results.
“Your family can get a simple allergy test done to see if they have allergy to dog dander. This is especially relevant if there is a family history of sensitivity to allergens, even other allergens like house dust mites,” says Dr Lim. “Some foods and medications that the patients are taking, and some skin conditions can make skin testing for dog dander allergens difficult. In such cases, a blood sample test can be done instead,” she adds.
A dog is for life, so do your research thoroughly to ensure that your new family member doesn’t end up in a pet shelter due to a last-minute allergy discovery.
The symptoms of dog allergies are like those of any other inhalation allergy or cold. They include:
- coughing, wheezing and sneezing
- red, itchy, puffy eyes
- runny, itchy, stuffy nose
- skin reactions, such as rashes and hives from dog licks, or hives on face or chest.
Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed?
While all dogs have dander, there are some breeds that supposedly produce fewer allergens as they shed less. However, this is not indicative of a completely hypoallergenic companion.
“All dogs shed dander, much like how humans shed dead skin daily. Thus, there is no dog that can be 100% hypoallergenic. However, there can be dogs that are less hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic dogs actually refer those dogs that shed less dander,” explains Dr Lim.
Dr Kenneth Tong, veterinarian and founder of Animal & Avian Veterinary Clinic, agrees. “There is no 100% hypoallergenic dog that is guaranteed to not cause any potential allergies to the human. However, certain breeds, and those bred selectively for traits that reduces dander shedding, are seen to be less likely to cause allergies in a group of humans, or a less intense/severe allergic reaction,” he says.
“Shedding of fur doesn’t fully correspond to shedding of dander that some humans are allergic to. But it is a fair assumption and estimation that more fur shedded risk having higher dander concentration,” he adds.
Singapore Specials can be suitable too
Sure, there are breeds such as poodles and terriers that are known to be hypoallergenic dog breeds, but can one consider a Singapore Special if they prefer to adopt an animal in need? Dr Tong gives a resounding yes.
“Of course you can consider Singapore Specials. The same rule applies, that not every human is pet/dog allergic. In fact, research tends to show that a majority of allergies are attributable to dust mites, pollens and airborne contaminants in the environment.
Similarly, not all dogs that shed a lot equate to the excessive shedding of dander. This will be best tested by your medical practitioner, and perhaps through the process of elimination of the causative agent. Notwithstanding, Singapore Specials that shed minimally (and those that don’t seem to trigger an immediate allergic response to the human) should deserve a closer consideration for adoption into your home.
So in short, those with pet allergies can and should consider Singapore Specials. They can get to know them better over a period of time and observe if the adopter is showing any signs of allergies.”
How you can reduce your risk factors
First up, cuddle time with your pooch in bed is a big no-no. Instead, you should limit your dog’s access to confined areas of the house, such as bedrooms. “As you spendmany hours of the day sleeping on your bed, your bed should be dog dander free. Try to keep your dog off the bed and out of your bedroom,” says Dr Lim.
Investing in a HEPA-filtered vacuum will go a long way too. “Allergy sufferers from house dust mites, pollens and cockroach allergens use a HEPA-filtered vacuum to remove the allergens. Similarly, the HEPA vacuum can remove dog dander allergens. Air HEPA filters can be turned on for some hours to reduce dog dander when you are out of the house,” she says.
Other ways pet allergy suffers can manage their allergies include keeping antihistamine medications and steroid nose sprays on hand, or consider Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT), a treatment that desensitises the dog lover to dog dander.
Aside from ensuring that you have an arsenal of allergy-soothing tools on hand, proper grooming and dog handling practices are essential too. “Some measures to reduce allergy triggers include grooming, shampooing your dog thoroughly, brushing it to remove loose fur and dander, training your pet (and yourself) to avoid face licking and practising good hand hygiene. A clean home, a clean dog, and a clean self will go a long way to reducing the symptoms and severity of allergies,” advises Dr Tong.
No pet is 100 per cent allergy-free, but the following low-shed and single-coated breeds may be an option for those who can’t resist having a canine companion. Scroll down for a list of hypoallergenic dog breeds!