Most children go through a phase at least once in their lives where they really want a dog or a puppy, and while for some kids this is a passing phase, for others it is just the beginning of a lifetime love of dogs, which will usually endure into old age.
However, if your child falls into the latter category but is also allergic to dogs-or if you yourself would really love to have a dog but have to factor in a child with allergies, you may have to give up hope of ever being able to have a dog without compromising your child’s health.
That said, it is not always the case, and some people with allergies manage to own a dog successfully without it making them ill-but there are a lot of factors to take into account when it comes to mixing allergies and dogs, and some families do indeed manage to make it work.
In this article, we will look at whether or not it is ever possible to have a dog if your child is allergic, and how to make an informed decision taking into account the various different factors. Read on to learn more.
Identifying and managing allergies can be tricky, particularly in children, when they might not become apparent during the child’s first few years of life, and may lessen or become more acute as they age.
Additionally, if your child has been identified as being allergic to dogs, developing a basic understanding of how the mechanism of allergies works is important, because understanding the problem makes it easier to identify solutions.
Many people assume that it is dog fur that triggers allergies, but this is not strictly true-it is not dog hair itself that is the problem, but certain proteins shed in dog dander, which are then spread around by shed fur. This means that it is not the fur itself that is the problem, but fur helps to spread the allergenic dander around.
How badly this affects any given child can be very variable-some children will have a potential reaction any time they come within range of a dog, or even go into a room where a dog has been-while for others, they may be absolutely fine with most dogs, but react badly to the odd one or two.
It is important to acknowledge and assess the various risks that accompany having a dog if your child is allergic, in order to mitigate them and decide whether or not they can be surmounted.
If your child is very sensitive to dogs and reacts badly regularly when in the presence of a dog, you will be unlikely to be able to have one without your child having to potentially take regular medications to reduce the effects-or of course, unless you are lucky enough to find one dog that is available and that does not trigger a bad reaction in your child.
Children that are immune-compromised, suffer from other illnesses or that tend to be sensitive to a lot of different things and suffer from other allergies are more likely to react badly to dog dander than children that are otherwise healthy, or that are not widely affected by all dogs.
First of all, it is important to understand that despite what some breeders and dog owners might tell you, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Some dogs shed less allergenic dander than others, which is sometimes connected to their breed (specifically, the type of coat they have) but there are no dogs that simply do not produce the protein chains that can trigger allergies, so finding the right dog is a process of trial and error.
The best way to do this is to introduce your child to a lot of different dogs in a one to one setting without other dogs around that might confuse the issue of what is causing your dog to react-and to spend several hours with them, ideally on more than one occasion, to be as sure as you can about whether it will work out ok.
Dogs that have a low-shedding coat are usually less likely to trigger allergies than dogs that shed heavily, so consider breeds like the poodle, or hybrid breeds with a poodle-type coat, such as the popular Labradoodle.
Once you have found the right dog and have decided to go ahead, it is still important to do what you can to reduce the presence of allergenic triggers, in order to preserve your child’s health and hopefully, avoid worsening an existing allergy.
First of all, it is wise to brush and groom the dog regularly (outside of the home ideally) and get them bathed every few weeks, to reduce the amount of dander that is possible to be spread around. Also, washing soft furnishings regularly and keeping the dog off soft furniture is wise, as is having hard floors rather than carpet.
It is also a good idea to forbid the dog from going into your child’s bedroom, and potentially, use an air purifier in the main rooms that the dog uses to reduce allergens.
Also, teach your child not to let the dog lick their face (dog saliva holds allergenic proteins too) and that they should always wash their hands after they have been patting the dog.