Breath of Fresh Air: Feature Articles

Chapter 40: My family and I would very much like to have a pet dog. I have asthma and allergies, and I understand that some dog breeds are less likely to bother my allergies than others. What type of dog do you recommend?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog. It is true that some dogs have skin rather than fur, others have short rather than long hair, but all have the potential to stimulate the allergic response in some human beings. Persons with asthma and allergies will tell you that some dogs predictably bring on their symptoms and others do not. However, the sensitivity varies from person to person, and one cannot predict whether any particular strain of dogs will be entirely safe for any given person with allergies.

In fact, the allergic response is complicated. It is possible that you will have no immediate allergic reaction to a dog but rather gradually develop an allergic sensitivity over a period of months and years of continuous exposure. It is also possible that your allergic reaction will not be sudden and dramatic (such as itchy eyes, watery nose, and wheezing upon petting the dog). It may be slow and subtle such as a gradual worsening of your asthma and increased need for anti-asthmatic medications.

This is not to say that persons with asthma cannot have pet dogs. Many do, and do not experience allergic symptoms when in contact with the dog. They do not have — and do not develop — any allergic sensitivity to their animals. But for you to bring a new pet dog into your home is a gamble. It is possible that your asthma and allergies may worsen as a result, no matter which breed you choose.

If you are considering obtaining a pet, remember: human beings can make allergic reactions to warm-blooded animals and birds, not to reptiles and amphibians!