Dogs for People With Allergies: Myths and Facts

Choosing a dog for people with allergies is not as black and white as the Portugeuse water dog Bo, chosen by President Obama and his family because of daughter Malia's allergies. Following are some common myths relating to dogs and allergies, along with associated facts.

Myth #1: Dog Hair Causes Allergic Reactions

Fact: Dander, or skin flakes, causes allergic reactions, not dog hair. Frequent shedding, however, means that dander is shed more often as it sticks to the hairs. The allergens come from the proteins in dog's saliva and skin secretions and become airborne very easily, causing allergic reactions in owners.

Myth #2: Dogs that Shed Less Are Better for Allergy Sufferers

Fact: While less shedding does equal less dander, the proteins in the skin and saliva are present in all dogs. Frequent grooming and limited shedding may offer short-term relief from allergens but the proteins will always be there. Some dogs do secrete less proteins than others, but there is no truly hypoallergenic dog that works for everyone.

Myth #3: Early Exposure to Dogs Will Prevent Allergies from Developing

Fact: If young children with allergies are around dogs they can learn to cope with allergens, no longer having allergic reactions as they get older. Once they are out of this environment, like when they move away to college, allergic reactions can form once these individuals are near dogs again.

Every person reacts to dogs differently, so if you have allergies try being around different dogs and see which is most compatible with you.