The search for a "presidential dog" has dominated the headlines since President Obama's campaign. It has been reported that President Obama's 10-year-old daughter, Malia, is allergic to dog hair, and thus starts the search for a "hypoallergenic" dog. Many of my patients find themselves with the desire to have a pet, despite a pet allergy as well.

There is a myth that pet allergies are caused by animal hair! It is actually a protein found in pet skin/dander, saliva and urine that causes the allergy. Hairless dogs are still going to have at least some allergen. Some dog breeds, are said to be "hypoallergenic," as they shed less, but no dog breed is completely 100 percent hypoallergenic.

In some cases, there are individual differences between breeds, and a particular pet allergy sufferer may do better with one breed as compared to another. Lastly, it has been postulated that perhaps female dogs might produce less animal allergen, but the jury is still out on this one!

You may look for breeds with shorter hair and less shedding, although there isn't any real scientific evidence this will really help. Some allergists have also advocated that there may be an advantage to keeping a dog that tends to keep their coat throughout the year. Also, there is a consideration to selecting a smaller dog, as these animals may shed less dander than a bigger dog. Other factors discussed are the animal's temperament or disposition that might make frequent bathing more feasible.

Tips that can help reduce dog allergy suffering_

• Create a pet-free bedroom

• Wash bedding in hot water

• Bathe your dog frequently and have a non-allergic family member perform grooming

• Use a HEPA air purifier, double bag and/or HEPA vacuum cleaner/home A/C, and as well as vacuuming carpets, cleaning walls

• Shampoo carpeting frequently or better yet, go with wood or washable tile/linoleum flooring

• Increase time your pet spends outside, when the weather allows

• Visit an allergist to discuss treatment options

Nevertheless, there are no guarantees that an individual who is truly allergic to pets (about 10 percent if those with allergies) will tolerate living with a pet dog or cat. What I have found helpful is actually trying out a pet on a "temporary or trial basis" for a future pet, to ensure a successful ending to this story. An even better strategy is to begin allergy treatment before getting a pet if you are allergic, including allergy injections!

For more information on pet allergies go to: http://www.aaaai.org/media/news_releases/pressrelease.asp?contentid=8326

For for home and animal allergy management tips check out: http://www.allergyandasthmarelief.org/animal_allergens.html

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett

is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.