Yesterday afternoon, President Obama and the First Family welcomed their new furry, four-legged canine “Bo” to the White House. Bo, a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog, is a curly-haired, black-and-white puppy with a lion-cut tail and lots of appeal. Aside from his penchant for being a gentle companion, obedient, agile, and easily trained, Bo is considered to be hypoallergenic – a must for 10-year-old Malia Obama, who is allergic to dogs. But is there really such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog? Many allergists say no.
According to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Portuguese water dogs – or “Porties” – are considered hypoallergenic because they are single-coated and shed less hair than other breeds. However, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) says that the amount of hair a dog actually sheds is not the issue for allergy-sufferers. It’s not a dog’s hair that causes allergies. It’s a dog’s dander, or dead skin cells.
AAAAI says that pet allergies are triggered by a specific protein found in an animal’s dander, saliva, or urine. This protein attaches itself to microscopic airborne particles that float throughout the air. Allergic reactions start when these particles are inhaled. All dogs, regardless of their breed, possess these proteins. Therefore, in essence, there is no such thing as an allergy-free dog.
There are, however, breeds that are more allergy-friendly, like Porties. These dogs have to be groomed more frequently, which removes a good deal of the dander in the process. Poodles and miniature schnauzers are other good examples.
So while the Obama family may have found a gem of a dog in Bo. (How cute are his first official photos?) He is not exactly allergy-free. The Obamas will want to keep a close eye on how Malia’s allergies fare with Bo at her side.
They might also consider using some of these strategies for coping with pet dander allergies. You might find them useful, too.
• Visit an allergist or immunologist for allergy treatment options. These may include regular allergy shots, medication, and/or lifestyle changes.
• Keep the pet out of the allergic person’s bedroom. Pet dander can easily collect on pillows and bedding, which may lead to heightened symptoms in the morning and at night.
• Use a HEPA air purifier to filter out pet dander, pet odors, and other irritants from the air. The Austin Air Pet Machine is designed specifically to remove even microscopic pet allergens with its 4-stage HEPA/carbon filter.
• Use a HEPA vacuum to get rid of allergens that have settled onto carpets, floors, and upholstery. The Bissell Lift-Off Revolution Pet Vacuum contains 3 separate filters, including a HEPA Post-Motor Filter, to clean floors, filter allergens, and help return clean air to a room.
• Bathe the animal weekly to reduce the amount of dander shed. You can use special pet wipes or pet shampoo designed to remove allergens as well as dirt and saliva.