Monday, February 23, 2009

The Hairy Truth

Are you looking for a “hypoallergenic” or “non-shedding” dog? Well, you first need to know exactly what these terms mean when referring to canines.

Let’s start with the “non-shedding” dog. This term is misleading. Shedding is a cyclical process by which hair grows for a period, then is lost later in the cycle. With dogs, this usually happens in seasons; i.e. shedding the winter coat. Different breeds shed differently. Temperature variations also effect he shedding process.

Dogs that “don’t shed” simply lose and grow hair year-round much like humans. Dogs that fall into this category tend to have shorter, curlier or more wirey hair. Since less hair falls out at a time, and it’s smaller, it is less noticeable. It is also believed these dogs produce less dander, thus being promoted as “hypoallergenic”. I wonder if it’s just that because it’s a small amount continuously, versus a large amount suddenly coming out, that we can adapt and tolerate it better.

There is NO dog that is 100% non-allergenic. First, you need to determine exactly what the problem is. If you are allergic to dog saliva, then you are completely out-of-luck. There are no breeds with low-allergy-saliva. Most people with dog allergies are actually allergic to the dust mites that feed on dander. Some breeds like Poodles, Bichons, and Portuguese Water Dogs, are generally less dander producing.

What about Labradoodles and Goldendoodles? These are known as “hybrid” or “designer” dogs. It is a cross between two pure bred dogs. Not all hybrid dogs bred are 50% purebred to 50% purebred. It is very common to breed multi-generation crosses. I have met quite a few Labradoodle owners who tell me their dog sheds just like a full-bred Lab.

No matter what breed dog, allergy sufferers should plan on a little extra grooming for their pooch. The more sensitive you are, the more diligent you will have to be. Discuss an appropriate care routine with your professional groomer or vet. This should include step you should be taking at home between professional visits. Be sure to use appropriate tools. Brushes and blades that are too harsh can exacerbate the problem.

By the way, if you have any questions about dog allergies, for you or other family members, consult your doctor. Especially if anyone has a history of hayfever or other allergies. If needed, having a test done to see how great the sensitivity actually is. The last thing you want is for someone to have an asthma attack, or have to take the puppy to the shelter.

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