Study Finds No Link Between Hypoallergenic Dogs And Childhood Asthma Risk
New research from Sweden shows that growing up with dogs may actually lower the risks of asthma, especially if the dog is a female, but that ‘allergy friendly’ breeds of dogs do not lower asthma risks.
It’s the age-old question: Is there really a breed that is ‘hypo-allergenic?’ Researchers from the Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have found that there isn’t a link between a lower risk of asthma and living with an ‘allergy-friendly’ breed, however they have found a lower risk of asthma if one grows up with dogs, particularly female dogs.
While more and more research shows that growing up with indoor dogs may reduce the risk of childhood asthma, this study from the Swedish researchers suggests that there are more specifics–like sex, breed, size of dog and even how many one grows up with–that affects asthma risks in childrn their first year of life.
Tove Fall is the Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medical Sciences–Molecular Epidemiology at Uppsala University and led the study with Karolinska Institutet’s Professor Catarina Almqvist Malmros. Fall said that the sex of the dog affects the amount of allergens released. Fall says that unaltered dogs give off more of a specific allergen than do neutered dogs or females, and this can make a difference in childhood asthma risks.
Interestingly, the research team also found that there was no scientific evidence that dogs who are anecdotally considered allergy friendly or hypoallergenic and better for people with allergies really are.
The researchers looked at all Swedish children born between the first of the year 2001 to the end of 2004. They also looked at data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Kennel Club and noted sex, breed, number of dogs in households, size and ‘alleged hypoallergenicity.’
They then compared asthma and allergy risks/diagnoses and/or asthma and allergy prescriptions for children who were six-years-old. They found that asthma prevalence in six-year-olds was 5.4% overall. Children who had only female dogs in their homes were at a 16% lower risk of asthma than those who were raised with male dogs. That said, those living with no dogs at home still had higher risk rates. Children who had two or more dogs at home had a 21% lower risk of asthma than when compared to those raised with only one dog.
And when it came to children, parents who had asthma/allergies more often had breeds typically described as hypoallergenic than when compared to those parents who did not suffer from asthma or allergies. The researchers found that children exposed to the allergy-friendly breeds had a 27% higher risk rate of developing allergies, but no increased risk of asthma.
Malmros says that this may be that families who have allergy histories more often choose ‘allergy friendly’ dogs, but hose allergy friendly dogs do not actually release fewer allergens.
The researchers say that their study confirmed nothing causal, but that more studies over time may look at allergy and asthma risk using biomarkers and microflora.
Just something to keep in mind next time you’re looking at the price tags on ‘allergy-friendly’ dogs.