Being an allergy sufferer and a dog lover is one of life’s cruel tricks, and it makes finding a hypoallergenic dog a priority! Several breeds are advertised as hypoallergenic, including the Maltese.
The Maltese is considered hypoallergenic due to being low shedding. However, an allergy sufferer might still react to this breed.
Here, we take a look at what makes a dog hypoallergenic and offer a few tips on how to live with a dog somewhat successfully as an allergy sufferer.
What Causes Pet Allergies?
It’s not precisely dog hair that causes allergies, as is commonly considered to be the problem. Allergy sufferers actually react to protein in a dog’s dander (microscopic flakes of dead skin), urine, sweat, and saliva.
When dogs shed, saliva and dander attach to the hair, and it all becomes airborne and lands on the surfaces around the home. It can end up on walls, clothes, furniture, and drapes, so you’re essentially surrounded by the enemy.
The dander will find its way into your eyes and lungs, causing a reaction! Your immune system is triggered by the protein in the dander, and you end up wheezing, sneezing, and itching.
So the less a dog sheds, the less dander there is. But every dog produces dander.
Are You Allergic to Male or Female Dogs?
It turns out that not all allergy sufferers are allergic to all dogs. In fact, experts say that approximately 40% of allergy sufferers are only allergic to the prostate protein, which is in male dogs1. Traditional allergy tests just check for general allergies, so this could mean that some allergy sufferers might not be allergic to female dogs.
Fortunately, there is a new innovative blood test that you can take to pinpoint which protein you’re allergic to. So, you might be able to own a female dog without worrying about allergies!
What Makes a Dog Hypoallergenic?
There really isn’t such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog because all dogs shed dander and produce saliva. But hypoallergenic breeds are considered as such because they shed less than other breeds, so there are fewer allergens, which also means fewer allergy triggers.
This is why many small dogs are considered hypoallergenic because they shed smaller amounts of dander. Dogs that shed less than others in general are also called hypoallergenic. But the key point here is that there is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog.
What Makes the Maltese Hypoallergenic?
Maltese have two advantages: They are small and don’t shed much.
The Maltese also has a single coat, which means even less shedding. Compare this to a dog like the German Shepherd, which has short fur and a double coat and sheds excessively!
If it turns out that you’re only allergic to male dogs, a female Maltese might work for you. But you’ll still need to be prepared.
The 6 Things You Can Do to Reduce the Allergens
If you’ve decided to go ahead and bring a Maltese home, you can try a few of the following tips to reduce potential allergic reactions.
1. Groom Your Maltese
The Maltese typically needs a bath every 3 to 4 weeks. If you bathe them more often, it will dry out their skin, which will create more dander. Still, make a point of staying on top of regular bathing because it will help remove any excess dander and hair.
Only use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner made for dogs. If you use other shampoos, they will mess with your dog’s skin, which will get dry and irritated.
Also, stay on top of brushing your Maltese, which will remove excess hair. If you keep their coats short, they will only need brushing a few times a week instead of daily brushing for a long coat.
2. Give High-Quality Dog Food to Your Dog
Feeding high-quality dog food to your Maltese is an excellent way to keep them healthy, which will also help their coat be healthy. You’ll want food with omega fatty acids, which will help nourish the skin.
However, if your Maltese has any food allergies, you must consult with your vet before switching to a new food.
3. Don’t Let Your Dog in the Bedroom
The best room in the house to turn into a dog-free zone is your bedroom. This means that under no circumstances do you allow your Maltese in that room, no matter how much they want a cuddle. This will keep your bedroom a dander-free area, which is essential for a good night’s uninterrupted sleep.
4. Clean Everything
Being an allergy sufferer living with a dog means diligently cleaning. Start by giving everything a thorough dusting with a damp cloth, including the walls.
You’ll want to invest in a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and consider getting one made for pet owners. Some experts say that you should vacuum every day, but if you don’t have time for that, aim to vacuum several times a week.
You’ll want to vacuum as many surfaces as you can, including carpets, upholstery, and curtains. Don’t forget to get under the furniture. You’ll also need to focus on deep cleaning your dog’s sleeping area.
5. Invest in HEPA Air Filters
HEPA filters are designed to remove approximately 99.7% of air particles, including dander. Buy enough HEPA air filters for every room that you spend the most time in, though you’ll want to find a quiet air filter for your bedroom.
6. See a Professional
Find an allergy specialist who can test you for any other allergies that you might have. If you happen to be allergic to other things in the home, you can reduce your reactions by addressing them all. You might even find that you’re not actually allergic to dogs but something else in your environment.
You can also speak to your doctor about allergy shots or any recommendations for nasal sprays and antihistamines that might help.
Other Hypoallergenic Breeds
Most dogs labeled as hypoallergenic tend to be more high maintenance with respect to grooming needs because many of them share the same feature: coats that continuously grow.
The Maltese have a unique coat of hair—in fact, it’s almost akin to human hair with its silkiness and minimal shedding. If you have your heart set on this breed, regardless of your allergies, speak to your doctor about your options and ensure that it’s safe for you to own a dog. Consider having the allergy blood test to determine if you’re allergic to all dogs or just the males.
If your doctor gives you the thumbs up, prepare for a great deal of cleaning but also for a wonderful companion that will make it all worthwhile.
Featured Image Credit: KatMoy, Shutterstock