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By Charl Knight
July 19, 2020
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Are Low-Maintenance and Hypoallergenic Dogs a Myth or an Achievable Reality?


It turns out that there is probably no such thing as a truly low maintenance (depending on your issue!) or 100% hypoallergenic dog. But we believe that there are breeds of dog suitable for all homes and people and share our journey below addressing the search for a non-shedding dog for our allergenic needs. Read on for the full scoop!

My Personal Story of Searching for a Low Maintenance Hypoallergenic Dog!

This is the question that I asked myself back in 2011 when our family decided that it was time to research and look for the perfect family dog.

I could no longer watch our eldest daughter, then aged 7, drag a sorry looking group of toy dogs around our home, desperate to love and look after the real thing.  She even attempted to put her younger sister at the end of a leash! 

At this stage, I knew that it was time to find our new furry family addition. 

I was the only member of the family with any experience of dog ownership. I had also previously lived with a friend who owned a very lovely aging cat. However, my experience was limited. 

Over several years, my wife and children had advanced from the standard goldfish to hamster ownership but had never experienced the joy and trials of having a family dog.

We were ready to find the family dog BUT we had one big problem - my wife had reacted very badly to the cat that I had shared a house with before we moved in together. 

We thought that this meant that she was allergic to animal fur/hair.  This seems to be a common misconception held by many people. 

My understanding of this was also limited so the research for a hypoallergenic dog began in earnest!

How Common Is It To Be Allergic to Dogs and Cats?

I was surprised to learn that between 10% to 20% of the population worldwide are affected by allergies to dogs and cats with cats representing double the rate of reactions to dogs. 

An allergic reaction is also more common when you already suffer from another type of allergy or asthma. My wife had suffered from asthma as a child.

For example, in the US, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 3 in 10 people suffering from allergies suffer allergic reactions to dogs and cats.

I also discovered that allergic reactions to dogs tend to be more severe than the reactions to cats. 

Low Maintenance Dogs & Hypoallergenic Dogs

Low Maintenance Dogs & Hypoallergenic Dogs

Could this end our longed-for journey into a loving relationship with a canine family addition? I was determined to find out whether this journey would still be possible given the number of families that share their lives with a pooch!

Global Dog Ownership Statistics

Dog ownership has continued to see a massive increase in recent years so this is an issue being faced by a lot of people who, like us at the time, are desperate to become a dog parent!

So what percentage of households own a dog? According to the 2019-2020 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 67% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.9 million homes. 63.4 million of those homes own a dog. A staggering 75% of homes!

Across the globe, the numbers are jaw-dropping. Or should I say paw-dropping? Forgive me for that one!

Just take a look at the results of a survey by Euromonitor, published by Nestlé Purina Petcare, and released in 2019.

global dog and cat ownership

It seemed to me that it must be possible to share your life and home with a dog and that I needed to understand how this could be achieved.

It was also key to understand the symptoms and how these could be minimized or even removed, if possible.

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Allergy?

Having witnessed my wife’s strong allergic reaction to my friend’s cat, I can say from experience that suffering from an allergy is no joke. No fun whatsoever

Here is a list of the symptoms you can suffer from an allergic reaction to dogs:

  • A skin rash - either red or small red and raised hives
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy, red and sore eyes
  • Watering eyes
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Breathing difficulties and shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest

Just one of these symptoms would cause great discomfort! Some of these symptoms are also severe requiring medical advice and potential treatment.

What Causes An Allergic Reaction to Dogs?

Given the levels of allergic reactions and the ever-increasing number of homes welcoming these adorable furry family members, it is important for people to understand why these allergies occur and if there is anything they can do to minimize or remove the risks.

Dogs secrete proteins particles that end up in their saliva, urine, and their dander (dead skin). 

Usually, these proteins do not cause any harm. If you have a sensitivity however then your immune system reacts telling you that there is a threat and causing some or all of the symptoms above. 

Saliva sticks to a dog’s hair when they lick themselves and as you will know, they do this often! Dander sits on the dog’s skin and coat and this is left behind when a dog shakes (again, they do this often!) and when they shed hair. 

An allergen trail can, therefore, be left all over your home! It can also stay airborne for long periods causing you further problems!

It is the dander, which clings to the hair, which causes most allergic reactions to pets.

Dog breeds produce different types of dander and some dog breeds produce less saliva than others so it is possible to have a stronger allergic reaction to certain breeds. 

Some people can unfortunately be allergic to all breeds of dog. 

It became clear to me that 100% hypoallergenic dogs and cats do not exist! 

However, it was also clear that it was possible to find less-allergenic dog breeds which may just suit our family circumstances!

It was at this stage in our journey that we happened to meet up with some old friends for a catch up as we had not seen them for a while. They introduced us to their new family addition - Monty the Cockerpoo!

We had never heard of this breed of dog. He was gorgeous and my wife took to him straight away. We told our friends about our research and they told us that they had chosen that breed as it had a non-shedding coat and this helped people who suffered from pet allergies! 

On arrival back home, we started to look into this discovering that non-shedding dogs produce less dander which is the main cause of an allergic reaction. 

Eureka! Solution found?!? We were both convinced that it would be possible to now search for the dog to match the name that had already been chosen - Ted!

Please note that research in this area remains ongoing according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) but they do comment that - 

ACAAI

Not all dog-allergic people react to the same dog allergens, and not all dogs produce or shed the same amount of all dog allergens. So it is theoretically possible that some dogs could be better tolerated than others. In the past, some have thought that breeds known to shed less fur ought to shed fewer allergens.

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Having researched this area in more recent times to prepare this helpful blog, we also found these great explanations on the VCA Hospitals site

Lynn Buzhardt

DVM

Some studies illustrate that the production of allergens varies by breed making certain dog breeds more compatible with allergic owners than others. Still other studies claim that there is no real difference regarding breeds and allergen production. Even with opposing views, there is agreement on why some breeds fair better with allergic owners.


Even though there is no

canine breed that is

100% hypoallergenic,

there are breeds that 

are less likely to stimulate

allergies in people.


How hypoallergenic a

dog is may depend

on the individual dog and

person....


Certain breeds are not

suitablefor allergy 

sufferers

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We realized that on this occasion size also matters! Larger dogs will produce higher levels of allergens.

Our heart was set and we located a good and honest breeder and we finally found our Ted!

9 years on he is still filling our home and hearts with love and joy. There is NOTHING quite like the LOVE and LOYALTY of a dog. 

So What Can You Do to Make It Possible to Live with Dogs When You Are Allergic To Them?

I can honestly say that we have not had any allergy issues in our home. We took precautions and we continue to take these precautions. 

The safest way to proceed before embarking on dog ownership is to get yourself tested for allergies. 

If you are allergic to dogs and cats then obviously, the safest way is to avoid them.

However, from personal experience, I remain of the view that you can make adjustments and lifestyle choices so that you can share your home and heart with a furry friend.

Note - you should check with an allergist as to what medications you may require, such as antihistamines and nasal decongestants. Please refer to our medical disclaimer which you can access here. This blog is for information purposes only and should not replace the need to consult medical and other expert advice.
TIPS TO LIVING YOUR LIFE WITH A DOG WHEN YOU ARE ALLERGIC

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  • Make sure that you have a regular grooming schedule that you put in place as soon as you welcome them into your home. 

    This includes regular bathing, brushing, and treating any skin conditions that they may have during their lifetime. 

    It may be best for non-allergic members of the family to attend to this routine or if you live alone, take the dog to a groomer who can attend to these tasks for you but you may find that some of these tasks are okay and do not cause a reaction, particularly bathing. 

    Brushing is more likely to cause a reaction.

    Ultimately, you won’t know until you try.

    If you put in place a regular and consistent grooming routine from the get-go, your new dog will soon adapt and learn to love this pampering pooch time.

  • Make sure you also wash their bed and bedding regularly! You read that right - their bed! Keep them off yours! Having them sleep in your bedroom will most likely be okay but leaving a trail of allergens on your bedding is not a great idea.
  • It also helps to have hard flooring and avoid carpets and drapes where possible as these can trap the dander.

    You can also invest in vacuum cleaners for pet hair that can help with removing allergens. Some of these even groom the hair and dander from the dog!
  • Make sure you also regularly deep clean your home and regularly wash your own bedding!
  • Remove outdoor contaminants. Dogs are out and about every day collecting other allergens such as pollen or mold particles and you can minimize the risk of these entering your home by wiping paws and the tummy for example. 

    You can use a damp cloth. We have special towels for Ted. For his use only! We have a great micro-fiber towel that has done him proud. He is also a regular visitor to the sink in our utility room for a paw and belly wash.

    For the allergy sufferers, a daily saline wash of your sinuses works wonders!
  • Choose dogs that ARE LOW SHEDDING OR DON’T SHED. Like our Ted!

You can also check out this article - An A - Z List of Low Shedding Dogs and Dogs That Don’t Shed - ‘Hypoallergenic’ Dog Breeds

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Faq- pEOPLE ALSO ASK...

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What is the most low maintenance dog?

There is no such thing as a really low maintenance dog as they all have their own needs and requirements but it depends on the issue - allergies, busy lives, accommodation size etc. etc. Keep checking our blog for great posts and updates.

What dog is best for allergy sufferers?

There are lots of breeds that could be suitable for someone with an allergy to dogs. Check our our A-Z post for a list featuring all sorts of breeds!

What is the most hypoallergenic dog breed?

Check out our A - Z list of a great range of suitable breeds for people who are allergic to dogs. 

What dogs are hypoallergenic and don't shed?

There are many breeds of dog that don't shed hair and are as hypoallergenic as you can get! Check out our post detailing the most suitable breeds.

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