UPDATE! A few months back WebVet was one of the first to announce the top contenders of the future Obama family pooch (full story below). We’re happy to announce that Senator Edward M. Kennedy recently gave the Obama family a Portuguese Water Dog puppy as a gift; Senator Kennedy owns several Portuguese Water Dogs himself. The dog (named Bo) is a nonshedder, which was a prerequisite for the Obama girls who suffer from allergies.Portuguese Water Dogs are also know for being loyal, affectionate, good with children, and easy to train. We wish all the best for the Obama family and their new family member, Bo.
Read the first report on other breeds that were in the running to be the latest ‘First Dog’ shortly after President Obama’s election:
There is no such thing as a free lunch, or a hypoallergenic dog.
President-elect Barack Obama has told his young daughters, Sasha and Malia, that they will have a puppy in the White House. In his victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago, the newly elected Obama said, “Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”
Along with the wars, the sagging economy and energy issues, the selection of the dog for Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, is complicated.
“With respect to the dog,” Obama said in his first press conference, “this is a major issue. [There are] two criteria that have to be reconciled.”
One is that Malia “is allergic, so (the dog) has to be hypoallergenic.” (Hypoallergenic means a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic response.)
The other is that “our preference would be to get a shelter dog,” pointing to the possibility of a mixed breed, or, as Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, said, “a mutt, like me.”
Everyone is a critic. (Even as Obama was trying to be PC, some multi-racial people howled at the use of the word “mutt.”) And everyone has an opinion.
The American Kennel Club urged the Obamas to get a hypoallergenic dog, such as a poodle, a low-shed breed. And the Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Association sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Lima offering the Obama girls a Peruvian hairless — a bald, hairless — and toothless — breed as a healthy choice.
No such thing as hypoallergenic breed
But experts on allergies and dogs say there are no hypoallergenic breeds.
Milwaukee-based Allergy, Asthma & Immunology said in a statement: “It is a common misconception that people are allergic to a dog’s hair, and it is falsely believed that a dog that sheds less will not cause a reaction. However, allergies to pets are caused by protein found in the animal’s dander (dead skin cells), saliva or urine.”
Dr. Anne Marie Ditto, an allergist/immunologist at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, said proteins are carried through the air and inhaled, triggering the allergic reaction.
Ditto said even low-shed breeds expose people to some dander. She noted that research has shown that danders are everywhere, even in buildings where there are no dogs or cats. She noted that cat danders were even found on an island that was cat-free.
Still, the Obama girls need not fret. They should maintain their father’s audacity of hope. There is a way for them to get the dog of their dreams.
Lowering exposure to dog allergens
Steps can be taken so an allergic person can live together with a dog in peace. Ditto said avoidance measures are the first line of treating allergies.
Ditto and Dr. Susan Aiello, a veterinarian in Dayton, Ohio, offered some tips to the Obamas and to other families who have members who are allergic to dogs:
Low-shed dogs can help. Also, Ditto said a smaller dog has “less surface area,” thereby “theoretically” reducing danders. So it may help to steer clear of a large breed, such as a Saint Bernard or German shepherd. Aiello said poodles and terrier breeds are good choices, and that a “goldendoodle,” favored by the Obama girls, could pose a problem unless it happened to have more poodle than golden shedding patterns.
- Wash the dog weekly. Aiello said this removes and controls danders. She said to use shampoos formulated for dogs, and not human dandruff shampoos that can irritate a dog’s skin. She said a rinse conditioner, again formulated for dogs, also is in order to damper down the dander and keep the dog’s skin healthy.
- No dogs allowed in the bedroom. Ditto said people spend most time at home in the bedroom, so if dogs don’t go there, the dander load is reduced. Animal dander collects on pillows, leading to worsened symptoms at night and morning. Use covers on pillows and mattresses.
- Wash bedding and clothing in hot water. While animal allergens are not easily removed by high temperatures, it may help. A hot wash will help with allergies and dust mites. Ditto jokes about the dog being the pet you want, vs. dust mites as “the pets you don’t want.”
- Replace carpets if you can with hardwood or other solid-surface flooring for easy cleanup. “It’s hard to get danders out of the carpet — hardwood floors are easier to clean,” Ditto said. Aiello said vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters can help in areas where there are carpets, such as the one with the Great Seal in the Oval Office. You can also use HEPA filters as standalone devices or on a central heating/cooling system to reduce the dander load.