HAVANESE ABC's

Everything you need to know

Main menu: Home | Index | Colours of the Rainbow | Contact Us

Chocolate Havanese

Allergies - Fact or Fiction?

Pet allergies

You may have heard that Havanese are non-shedding and hypo-allergenic. You or other family members have allergies and/or asthma, so is a Havanese a good choice of pet for you? Maybe, but maybe not. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of the population is allergic to animals; even so, approximately 1/3 of these choose to live with at least one pet in their household. Choosing and living with a Havanese despite having allergies needs a basic understanding of pet allergies and a few sensible guidelines.

Understanding allergy triggers

Glands in the dog's skin secrete tiny proteins which linger on the dog's body but also easily drift in the air and cling to many surfaces. Animal skin proteins, harmless in those with normal immune systems, can create havoc in people with hyper- sensitive immune systems. Proteins are also found in a dog's saliva and urine. Sensitive individuals can be allergic to one or more of these animal proteins.

Symptoms

Reactions to animal protein vary from one person to the next, ranging from non allergic to very mild sensitivity to severe allergic reactions and everything in between. Reactions may include sniffling, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, skin itch, rashes, hives, headaches, coughing and shortness of breath, wheezing, and life threatening asthma attacks. These can happen as quickly as a few minutes after exposure or as much as 24 hours or more later. The most severe reactions tend to occur very quickly upon exposure, generally within an hour, while less severe reactions may take longer to develop.

Hypo-allergenic dogs?

Contrary to long held belief, there is no dog breed that is truly non-allergenic. A non- allergenic dog would be one that has zero potential of producing an allergic reaction in anyone, anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances; those dog breeds simply do not exist! Seeing as all dogs of all breeds have skin and produce saliva and urine, they all have the potential of provoking allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. The term hypo-allergenic is typically used in reference to breeds, such as the Havanese, that appear to have a lower incidence of provoking allergic reactions. This may attributed in part to the breeds' tendency to have lower dander levels and to shed less than other breeds. Havanese may be considered a low shedding breed, but they do shed to some extent. Many people refer to these as hypo- allergenic or allergy friendly breeds (meaning they are less likely to provoke an allergic response).

Does that mean that anyone with allergies can add a Havanese to their family without concern of experiencing allergic reactions? Not at all; if you or a family member have ever experienced an allergic reaction to any dog or other animal, it is wise to check for potential allergies to Havanese before choosing to add one to your family. Even though allergic reactions to Havanese may be less common, they can and do happen.What else needs to be considered and how Havanese can potentially trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.

Allergy triggers


If Havanese are considered low dander or hypo-allergenic, why can a sensitive individual still get a reaction to them? Let's have a look at some of the potential Havanese allergy triggers for a better understanding.

Dander

What is it? Dander is composed of small particles of dead skin cells that flake off the body as the skin regenerates itself. If dogs have skin, they will produce dander. Some breeds of dog, like the Havanese, seem to produce low(er) amounts of dander, however; it must be kept in mind that individual dogs produce individual amounts of dander. This means that one Havanese may be more irritating to an allergic individual than another Havanese. Tiny, almost invisible flakes of dander can also float through the air or cling to furniture and other surfaces and may linger for long periods of time. This residual dander may explain why some extremely sensitive individuals experience a reaction even when there is no animal present. i.e.) buying a house where the previous owners had animals.

Fur

The popular belief that fur and dog hair are the cause of allergies may not be entirely accurate. Rather than reacting to the fur or hair itself, allergic individuals are likelier to be reacting to allergens that cling to the fur, including dander. Animal dander is a much more potent allergen than an animal's fur or hair. Similarly, it is not specifically the amount or length of coat that causes allergic reactions. While a full coated Havanese does not necessarily produce more dander than a Havanese with a clipped coat; a full coat, with its length and volume, has more space to hold dander and may also pick up and carry other allergens more easily. The long luscious Havanese coat can pick up an amazing amount of debris in the yard, and on walks or playtime in the park. Grass, seeds, dust, pollen, molds and other allergens clinging to the coat may be additional triggers for allergic individuals. If an individual reacts more to dogs with long coats than short coats, it is likely that they have additional allergy triggers or are very sensitive to dander in larger quantities but able to tolerate lower levels. These people may appear to be OK with puppies but have reactions to coated adults.

Shedding

If fur is not specifically the main allergen, what does shedding or non-shedding have to do with allergies? Dogs that shed profusely may leave more hair everywhere, with the result that dander and other allergens carried by the hair are distributed more widely than by breeds of dog that shed less. Havanese are considered a low shedding breed, however they do lose coat to some extent.

Saliva

Havanese tend to form strong bonds with their families and can be very expressive in their love with lots of kisses and licking which can be an issue in those individuals who are saliva sensitive. It's important to know that saliva protein can be transmitted not only by licking, but, also by residue which lingers on the skin and fur, either from self grooming or from one dog grooming another. That is one possible reason for people who appear to be allergic to puppies but not to adults. Dams groom their puppies extensively and puppies also chew on each other in play. Puppies have much higher levels of saliva residue in their coats than do adult dogs. Adult dogs that self-groom extensively will also have higher levels.

Urine

Urine protein is the least likely to provoke allergic reactions; not because it is a weaker allergen, but simply because of typically lower exposure. Since housebroken Havanese eliminate outdoors or in designated areas, there is minimal direct contact; there may be a bit more exposure with dogs trained to eliminate indoors on potty pads or in litter trays. Issues may show up at clean-up time, whether indoors or out. Urine residue on the belly or leg fur may cause unexpected problems in sensitive individuals. This is another possible reason for those allergic to puppies but not adults. Even when kept clean by canine and human caretakers, urine residue on young puppies is quite common.

Can you live with a Havanese?


Check for reactions

Tell the breeder about your allergies when you visit. Stay as long as possible, at least 30 minutes but preferably longer (unless there is an immediate reaction, in which case you should leave as soon as possible). Hold, hug, cuddle and kiss all their Havanese, puppies and adults. Rub your face into their fur; let them lick you, especially the sensitive skin on your face and neck and inside your arms. This will test your allergic reaction to dander and saliva and help you to determine a basic allergy level to Havanese. A mild reaction does not necessarily mean you cannot live with Havanese. It may simply mean you need to check further. While some mildly sensitive individuals can tolerate 1 or 2 Havanese with few problems, they may not be able to tolerate a houseful. Or perhaps the breeder has one or more other breeds of dogs, or other animals in the house that you may be reacting to. A visit perhaps with a pet owner who only has one Havanese and no other animals is a good next step. If you have only a mild or questionable reaction at your first visit, you may need 2-3 Havanese visits before you can determine your sensitivity level. If you are Ok, and choose to add a Havanese to your family, there are some ideas below to help minimize triggers. These ideas however, are not to be considered as long term solutions for highly allergic individuals. If, upon careful checking, you are highly sensitive to Havanese, it is probably best to avoid getting one altogether and look to a different low- allergenic breed if you are determined to add a dog to your family. Note: If you have taken an antihistamine in the 24-48 hours previous to your visit, a non-reaction or minimal reaction may not be a good indicator of your true sensitivity as the antihistamine in your system may prevent or minimize any reaction

Living with allergies to your pet

Many people with only mild, tolerable allergic symptoms can live with a low dander minimally shedding Havanese with proper environmental controls. Here are a few ideas to help reduce allergens on the dog and in the home to minimize triggers.

  • bulletFirst and foremost, keep your Havanese clean and groomed. Regular brushing helps remove loose and dead hair and the allergens carried by them. Bathing your Havanese every 7-10 days can reduce levels of fur borne allergens (including loose dander) by as much as 80%.
  • bulletRegular bathing also goes a long way towards minimizing symptoms caused by saliva and urine residue. If possible, groom in a specific area, a closed door "dog room" to minimize allergens loosened during grooming from becoming airborne throughout the home. Ideally, a non-allergic family member should do the grooming as well as the cleaning of this room afterwards. If that is not possible, a disposable paper filter mask may help minimize symptoms at grooming time. Bath day can be done by a non-allergic family member at a self-wash station of a local pet store instead of in the home or can be handled by a professional groomer.
  • bullet Daily or weekly use of products that claim to reduce allergens when sprayed on an animal's fur may be helpful for some, though studies show they are less effective than weekly bathing.
  • bulletRegular, thorough cleaning of the home as well as the use of heating and air-conditioning filters and HEPA filters are all ways of reducing allergens.
  • bulletAn anti-allergen detergent for pet laundry may be another good idea.
  • bulletIt makes sense that saliva sensitive people discourage their Havanese from kissing or licking them, especially on the face and neck; also important to wash hands thoroughly after handling or playing with the dog.
  • bulletFor fur and dander sensitive individuals, the Havanese should be kept out of the bedroom and off the bed to keep the bedroom a dog free zone.
  • Many allergy sufferers are sensitive to more than one allergen including dust, pollen, smoke etc in which case the overall allergen level in the environment must be reduced by concentrating on all of the causes, not just the pet allergy. A combination of methods is most likely to succeed in allowing a mildly allergic person to live with a Havanese.

    A condensed version of this article was Previously published in DIC Breedlines in Jan,Feb,March 2006
    A detailed version published in Our Havanese May/June 2008

    Back