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The Allergy-Free Dog: Real, or a Myth?

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A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy reveals the amount of dog allergens found in households with dogs does not vary depending on the breed. In other words, families with so called "hypoallergenic" dogs are living with the same level of allergens in their homes as people who own non-hypoallergenic canines.

Study researchers measured the level of the most common dog allergen, Canis familiaris 1, or Can f 1, found in the homes of 173 families that owned one dog. Out of the 173 samples, only 10 had less than measurable amounts of Can f 1. No matter what type of dog was in the home, there was no significant difference in the level of allergens measured.

No One Knows How the Myth of Allergy-Free Dogs Got Started

"I have no idea where this whole concept came from. It's been around a long time, and maybe people associated it with shedding. I think it's just a legend," says Dr. Christine Cole Johnson, an epidemiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and senior author of the study.

The scientists who conducted the study discovered 60 of 161 recognized breeds were named as hypoallergenic on various Internet websites. However, there is no official list of hypoallergenic breeds, though the American Kennel Club (AKC) does suggest 11 canine candidates for people with allergies. The kennel club only suggests certain breeds might be beneficial for allergy sufferers -- it doesn't recommend or endorse any specific breed.

How This Study Differs From Previous Studies on Dog Allergens

Studies conducted in the past looked at the skin and hair of dogs to measure and compare the amount of allergens contained on individual dogs. The results showed wide variations from dog to dog, but not from breed to breed.

The study authored by Dr. Cole Johnson is the first of its kind. The researchers set out to see whether so-called "hypoallergenic" pups were shedding less Canis familiaris 1 around their homes.

The study involved 173 single dog homes, and 163 of those produced measurable levels of Can f 1. Even though there weren't enough dogs of each breed to analyze results by breed, the researchers compared allergen levels across various categories of purebred and mixed-breed dogs, both supposedly "hypoallergenic" and non-hypoallergenic. They even compared the AKC-suggested hypoallergenic breeds against all other dogs.

No matter how they did their comparisons, the scientists found no statistically significant differences in the levels of Can f 1 in dust samples in those 163 homes.

Per Dr. Cole Johnson:

"You can't be assured that some breed is going to produce less allergen than another. Allergists, based on their experience, really think that it's just individual dogs who have some variations based on genetics or behavior, who produce more allergens than others. But it's not going to be a breed classification that predicts that."

Suggestions for Controlling Pet Allergens in Your Home

• Feed your pet an anti-inflammatory, species-appropriate diet. By reducing allergenic foods going into your pet you can reduce allergenic saliva coming out of your pet.

• Make sure your pet's essential fatty acid requirements are met. By assuring your dog or kitty has optimal levels of EFAs in the diet, you can reduce shedding and dander associated with EFA deficiency. Adding coconut oil has also proven to help reduce dander and shedding.

• Bathe your pet often. Even kitties can be bathed regularly, but take special care to use only safe, non-drying herbal animal shampoos. Whatever you do, avoid using people shampoo on your dog or cat, and skip any shampoo containing oatmeal.

• Invest in a good-quality vacuum designed for households with pets.

• Clean your home frequently and thoroughly, including any surfaces that trap pet hair and dander like couch covers, pillows and pet beds. This will also help control other allergens in your home that could be contributing to the allergic load of family members.

• Wash bedding frequently in hot water.

• If your pet rides in the car with you, consider using washable seat covers.

• Purchase a good quality air purifier for your home.

• Remove carpeting, drapes and other fabric that traps animal dander. Tile or wood floors are much easier to clean of allergens.

Reference:

Dog allergen levels in homes with hypoallergenic compared with nonhypoallergenic dogs. Authors: Nicholas, Charlotte E.; Wegienka, Ganesa R.; Havstad, Suzanne L.; Zoratti, Edward M.; Ownby, Dennis R.; Johnson, Christine Cole. Source: American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, Volume 25, Number 4, July/August 2011, pp. 252-256(5)

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.

For more by Dr. Karen Becker, click here

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