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The myth of the hypoallergenic dog is so pervasive that even President Obama?s family adopted a Portuguese water dog because of his daughter?s allergies. But a new study says that neither the First Dog, Bo, nor any other breeds actually are hypoallergenic. Here?s information to help you counsel parents on the pros and cons of getting a family dog and when.
The Obama family dog, Bo, may not be exactly as advertised. Even though he was selected because of the Obama children’s allergies, it does not turn out that the First Dog’s breed, a Portuguese water dog, nor any other breeds, actually are hypoallergenic.
Those are the findings of a study done at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and that information is likely to change the way pediatricians counsel parents on the pros and cons of getting a family dog.
"Based on previous allergy studies conducted here at Henry Ford, exposure to a dog early in life provides protection against dog allergy development,” said Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, MPH, chair of Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Services and senior investigator. “But the idea that you can buy a certain breed of dog and think it will cause less allergy problems for a person already dog-allergic is not borne out by our study."
Urban and suburban Detroit residents were recruited during a second- or third-trimester prenatal visit to a Henry Ford Health System obstetrics clinic visit. Researchers conducted interviews at recruitment and at a 1-month postpartum visit in which they also collected dust samples from babies’ bedrooms in 173 homes.
Some 60 dog breeds were involved in the study, 11 of which were considered hypoallergenic, based on public Web site claims. No statistical difference was found in the level of dog allergen in homes with hypoallergenic dogs compared to homes with dogs not classified that way.
The study has some limitations, including lack of information on how much time dogs spent in the babies’ bedrooms and, because of sample size, the inability to focus on specific breeds, researchers cautioned.
But they were clear in their recommendation: “Clinicians should advise patients that they cannot rely on breeds deemed to be ‘hypoallergenic’ to in fact disperse less allergen in their environment.”