Are Dogs Safe for People With Asthma?

If you have asthma, knowing that dogs can trigger asthma symptoms can be a hard reality to accept if you have or would like to have one for a pet. But not everyone with asthma has the same response to dogs. Some people are able to make adjustments to reduce the risk of dog-induced asthma symptoms, while others develop severe symptoms even from a brief exposure to things a dog has come in contact with.

While "hypoallergenic" dogs are generally considered better for people with asthma, some find that these dogs are still problematic when pet dander is a triggering factor for their condition. And while you may react to some types of dogs but not others, this doesn't necessarily mean that breed is the reason why.

How Dogs Affect Asthma

When you come into contact with a dog or when you spend time in a place where a dog has been, you may be exposed to the dog's saliva, hair, urine, feces, and skin flakes. A shedding known as animal dander typically contains a mixture of these components.

Dander can trigger asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. And individual components of dander, especially saliva, can be strong asthma triggers as well. In rare instances, you can develop an asthma attack due to dog exposure, with severe inability to breathe.

Research shows that dander and other materials that dogs leave in the environment contain the proteins Can f 1, Can f 2, Can f 3, and Can f 6. These induce an immune reaction that triggers asthma symptoms in some people who have asthma.

Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

"Hypoallergenic" dogs are those deemed to be less likely to trigger allergies and asthma symptoms in people who are susceptible. Research also suggests that female dogs are less likely to trigger asthma symptoms than male dogs.

According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (ACAAI), dogs traditionally considered to be hypoallergenic include:

  • Afghan hound poodles*
  • Airedale terriers
    Malteses*
  • Portuguese water dogs*
  • Samoyeds

The American Kennel Club (AKC)'s website includes a longer list of dogs that they suggest as potentially hypoallergenic, which includes those marked with an asterisk above as well as:

  • Affenpinscher
  • American hairless terrier
  • Barbet
  • Bedlington terrier
  • Bichon frise
  • Bolognese
  • Chinese crested
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Giant or standard schnauzer
  • Irish water spaniel
  • Kerry blue terrier
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Löwchen
  • Miniature schnauzer
  • Peruvian Inca orchid
  • Miniature, standard or toy poodle
  • Russkaya Tsvetnaya Bolonka
  • Soft-coated Wheaten or Yorkshire terrier
  • Xoloitzcuintli 

While choosing a dog from these lists may prove to be helpful if you have asthma, the ACAAI points out that selecting a dog of a particular breed isn't a guarantee that it won't trigger asthma symptoms.

Experts, including the ACAAI, warn that all dog breeds produce asthma inducing-proteins—even dogs that may have been labeled as "hypoallergenic." Additionally, homes where such dogs live do not have lower levels of dog allergen than homes where dogs of any other breed reside.

There may be individual stories and experiences shared by people who have asthma suggesting that they have fewer asthma symptoms around certain dog breeds. But none of the dogs on any list of hypoallergenic dogs have been scientifically proven to be hypoallergenic.

Managing Asthma When You Have Dogs

If you have asthma, there may be ways for you to minimize the effects that dogs have on your symptoms.

Steps you can take include:

  • Get your pet neutered/spayed.
  • Bathe your pet once or twice a week or have it bathed by someone else.
  • Make sure your pet is regularly groomed.
  • Wipe down your pet with a wet cloth or baby wipes every day.
  • Keep your pet out of your bedroom.
  • Consider using a HEPA filter or vacuum cleaner​ to remove the asthma-inducing residue from your home.

Allergy Shots

You might consider talking to your doctor about immunotherapy (allergy shots). This treatment involves getting shots of material that is similar to what triggers your symptoms so that your body can develop a healthier response.

Keep in mind that allergy shots are given under medical supervision so you can receive emergency treatment if necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Many people who have asthma are able to live with dogs. Your asthma may be more reactive to one type of dog than another, which can help guide your choice in pet. But remember that some dogs of the same breed may trigger your asthma symptoms, while others don't.

If possible, it is ideal to spend some time with a specific dog before making a decision about having them in your home. This way, you can see if and how your asthma symptoms react to exposure.

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Article Sources
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