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Archive for November 19th, 2008

How to (ah) choose a hypoallergenic dog

Goldendoodle

Goldendoodle

Despite all the buzz about “hypoallergenic dogs” since the Obamas indicated they may get one, there are no breeds that are truly free of potential allergens, some medical experts say.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog,” allergy and asthma expert Corinna Bowser (really, BOWSER!) of Havertown, Pa. told WebMD.

While there are countless websites devoted to “hypoallergenic dogs,” the Obamas could find it difficult to find one to which their older daughter, Malia, won’t have an allergic reaction.

Bowser explains that the major allergen in dogs is a protein found in dog serum, and dogs excrete that allergen in sweat and shed it from their skin. “It also gets secreted into the saliva, and possibly a little bit in the urine,” Bowser says.

Since all dogs have that protein, no dog is completely allergy-free, according to Bowser.

She said a German study, published this year, tracked allergies among people exposed to various dog breeds and found that factors related to individual dogs seem to influence the “allergenicity” more than breed or gender.

Breeds commonly cited as hypoallergenic include the poodle, (and several poodle hybrids, like the goldendoodle), Bichon Frise, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Portugese Water Dog, Schnauzer, West Highland Terrier, Basenji, Airedale Terrier, and our good friend, the Xoloitzcuintli.

Smaller dogs, and short-haired breeds might be less risky, Bowser said. “Hair length could have something to do with how it spreads in the house,” she said, explaining that shorter dog hairs may not stick as much as long hair to furniture, clothes, and other surfaces.

Bowser went on to say that if she was the Obama family doctor, “I would say it’s probably better not to get a dog.”

“Of course, now he made the promise and he kind of has to,” she said. Bowser recommends that before they get a dog of their own the Obama family dog-sit to see how Malia’s allergies fare, and set some rules about how they’ll handle any allergy issues.

Greyhound groups racing to find homes

Between the shaky economy and track closings, greyhound rescue organizations are hard-pressed to find enough homes for the growing number of dogs exiting the racing industry.

The weakened economy has led some prospective owners to back out of their adoption plans, and led some who have adopted greyhounds to return them.

“There have been a lot of stress-related returns with people losing their houses or their jobs and more adoption groups are reporting new adoptions are down,” said Michael McCann, president of The Greyhound Project Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit that provides support and information to greyhound adoption organizations and the public.

McCann blamed the economy primarily, but the Massachusetts ban on greyhound racing — voters approved a referendum that will lead to the closing of two tracks there by Jan. 1, 2010 — is a big factor, too.

“With some tracks having several hundred dogs, they have to go somewhere,” McCann said. “Some of them can go to other tracks, but many of them are ending up needing to be adopted.”

Many of the estimated 300 adoption groups nationwide are seeing increases in returns of adopted greyhounds and declines in new adoptions, according to an Associated Press report.

The problem is compounded by more racetracks closing — at least seasonally — in the face of increased competition from casino gambling and the general economic slowdown, McCann said.

McCann said the problem is not confined to the continental United States. The recent closure of a racetrack in Guam left about 150 dogs needing homes, and animal rescue officials have been contacting U.S. groups for help.

“They may have to be destroyed if there is no place else to go,” McCann said.

Greyhound Rescue, Inc. places greyhounds in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Other greyhound rescue groups include the Greyhound Project Inc,Triangle Greyhound Society, Queen City Greyhounds, or Greyhound Friends Inc.

(Photo: Courtesy of Greyhound Rescue, Inc.)