Having a dog allergy is frustrating for animal lovers, particularly those dreaming of owning a golden retriever. Unfortunately, golden retrievers aren’t hypoallergenic.
The good news is that an allergy doesn’t yet mean that you can’t have a dog.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nearly 30% of Americans are allergic to pets. Meanwhile, almost 40% of Americans own a dog, and these categories often overlap.
A popular pet allergy myth is that particular dog breeds don’t cause allergic reactions. This isn’t true, so there’s no need to give up your love for goldens for a different dog.
You can have an allergy and own a golden retriever without harming your health if you learn to deal with it correctly.
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What Causes Dog Allergy In Humans
To understand why some dogs are considered hypoallergenic, and others aren’t, we should define what causes dog allergy in humans. Despite a common misconception, fur isn’t the only pet matter that causes allergic reactions in humans.
The primary offender isn’t hair but dander, dried flakes of dead skin that fall off any dog, cat, or human. However, some people are allergic to dog saliva, urine, or sweat.
Dealing with dog saliva allergy is straightforward – one needs to reduce exposure to the allergen, which can be done by not allowing the dog to lick hands. However, some saliva may stick to furniture, clothes, and carpets.
A trickier problem is pet dander, which is very difficult to avoid. Dander particles are tiny and constantly remain in the air, on furniture, and other surfaces. Dog hair isn’t an allergen itself, but it collects dander and spreads it.
Now, the answer to what makes a dog hypoallergenic is pretty apparent – moderate shedding. The less a dog sheds, the less dander it spreads, and the lower the allergy risk. Note that no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic – they all shed.
A company from San Diego once bred a cat that lacked a protein found in saliva and urine, causing allergy in humans. This mutation made the cat truly hypoallergenic, but no such protein mutations were found in any dog breed.
Interestingly, hypoallergenic doesn’t mean “completely safe for allergic people” or “not causing an allergy.” “Hypo” means “low,” so hypoallergenic refers to something that releases fewer allergens but doesn’t lack them.
Still, some dogs shed more than others and are more likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Some dog breeds considered hypoallergenic are Afghan hound, American hairless terrier, and Basenji, but golden retrievers aren’t on the list.
So, do golden retrievers cause allergies in humans? Yes, they do. Can you have a golden retriever with an allergy? Yes, you can! You can’t eliminate the risk of allergy, but you can reduce it drastically.
Furthermore, people may be allergic to specific dog breeds but not to others. Different species have different proteins responsible for causing allergies, and some golden retriever owners report that they are allergic to every breed but goldens.
Furthermore, some proteins are only produced by intact male dogs or only female dogs. So, the chances are that you are allergic to male golden retrievers but not females, and vice versa.
How To Check Whether You Are allergic To a Dog
If you don’t yet own a golden retriever but really want one, visit a kennel and check whether you are allergic to a particular dog breed or gender.
Since some allergies are caused by specific proteins only present in some dogs, you may be lucky. However, come prepared – get some over-the-counter allergy medications to take if you have a severe allergic reaction.
Spend at least 30 minutes in the kennel, but only with one puppy if possible. This way, you can determine whether a particular puppy causes an allergy or not.
Golden Retrievers Shed a Lot
Golden retrievers are in no way hypoallergenic. Golden retrievers are heavy shedders – it’s one of the most shedding dog breeds, so they are bound to cause allergies.
Goldens are also highly affectionate and love to lick the owner, potentially triggering saliva allergies.
Golden retrievers have a double coat – a long overcoat and dense, fluffy undercoat that keeps them warm and dry.
Golden retrievers shed year-round as their hair goes through its natural life cycle, but shedding becomes extra intense in spring and fall when they blow out their undercoats, adapting to the changing season.
Consequently, spring and fall tend to be challenging for golden retriever owners with allergies. Fortunately, owners can significantly reduce the concentration of allergens in their households with regular dog grooming.
Grooming is Vital
One of the most effective methods of dealing with dog allergies is frequent grooming.
Golden retrievers require regular bathing and brushing regardless, but owners with allergies may have to groom their pets even more frequently than recommended.
Groomers and breeders recommend bathing golden retrievers at least every six weeks, but allergic owners may need to wash their pets every two to four weeks. Note that too frequent bathing can harm the dog’s coat and skin.
To avoid the development of skin conditions in your dog, bathe it only when necessary, particularly during intense shedding seasons.
However, someone in your household can brush the dog daily or several times a week to remove dead skin cells from its fur.
A common myth about dog allergy is that shaving the coat will reduce allergy risk.
Shaving isn’t effective because it only makes the hair shorter but doesn’t affect shedding intensity. Furthermore, one should never shave a golden retriever.
Shaving can permanently damage a golden retriever’s fur, making it coarse and sticky and interfering with its natural thermoregulation.
A more breed-appropriate haircut is the teddy cut or simple trim, but neither help to reduce the allergy risk.
Furniture, floors, cushions, and other surfaces in your home inevitably collect pet dander, fur, saliva, urine, and sweat particles.
Grooming alone won’t help because allergen particles remain airborne for long, released in the air every time you sit on your couch or close the door. One of the best dog allergy prevention methods is frequent home cleaning.
Naturally, if the allergic owner does the cleaning themselves, they may have an allergic reaction. Ideally, the cleaning should be done by someone not allergic to dogs. Owners who live alone may use respirators when cleaning.
There’s no universal answer to how often to clean the house if you are allergic – it depends on the allergy extent and other variables.
As a rule of thumb, vacuum the floors and furniture twice a week, clean the floors once a week, and wash your sheets weekly in hot water. If you have a carpet, vacuum it every second day or change it for hardwood floors.
Don’t air-dry your laundry because damp clothes pick up allergens. Alternatively, dry it in a room your dog can’t get into. Get rid of any clutter, such as cardboard boxes, because clutter traps allergens.
Ensure proper air circulation in your home. Open the windows regularly to get rid of airborne allergens.
Create Allergen-Free Zone
Declare your bedroom an allergen-free zone. Even if you clean your house and groom your dog regularly, you can’t eliminate allergens entirely. A person exposed to allergens non-stop may develop severe complications, such as asthma.
For this reason, you need to create a safe zone in your house where you can spend time when the allergic reaction manifests.
Never let your dog inside the bedroom, and remember to clean it frequently anyways because you will inevitably bring dander on clothes and shoes.
The allergen-free zone can be any space in your home, not necessarily the bedroom, but sleeping in a room full of allergens is dangerous.
If you have a multiple-story house, you can keep your dog out of one level entirely. In the summer, keep your dog more outdoors – this will also be healthy for your pet, allowing it to drain its energy.
The best way to reduce allergen concentration in the air is to use high-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA filters).
HEPA filters are mechanical filters that force the air through a fine mesh, trapping allergen particles such as dander and pollen.
HEPA filters are widely available in household stores and pet stores, but when choosing one, ensure it’s big enough for your room. Check how much air the filter can clean on the label.
Locate HEPA filters in your bedroom, the living room, and other areas you often spend time in. Remember that HEPA filters only get rid of allergen particles in the air and not on surfaces.
Even with frequent grooming, home cleaning, and HEPA filters, you cannot eliminate the risk of allergic reaction entirely. Consult with your doctor regarding medications for dog allergies.
The most common type of medication is antihistamines, which block the effects of a chemical that triggers an allergic reaction.
Another option is decongestants – they reduce nasal swelling and relieve congestion, so they only help people with respiratory symptoms.
Some people are prescribed nasal steroids to calm inflammation. Many allergy treatments are sold over-the-counter, but some require a prescription. Allergy shots may be a long-term solution, but they aren’t effective for everyone.
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