When Hairy Met Sneezy: a "tail" of Shibas and allergies
by Mary Engstrom
"You have asthma and allergies and you're thinking of getting a dog?! Are you out of your mind?!" I heard those words for months when I announced my desire to adopt a dog. My friends were right to be concerned about how this would affect my health. In addition, it would not be fair to the dog to adopt it without first making sure that I would be able to give it a permanent home.
The best way to know if adopting a Shiba will work for you is to know your breed, and spend time with your breed before the adoption. The good news is that Shibas have an outer coat that sheds dirt easily. This can minimize the amount of other allergens that dogs typically bring inside. Shibas are not constant shedders, so for periods of six months or so, you will only have minimal hair in the house. Shibas are very clean dogs, not requiring frequent bathing. This is great for allergy sufferers because in many cases it is not the hair that triggers the allergy, but rather the dander that can result from frequent bathing. The bad news is that Shibas also have a thick undercoat that will shed every six months or so. When a Shiba "blows his/her coat", you will wonder where all the hair came from!
Thanks to Geert Jan for the use of his helpful pictures!
The shed lasts anywhere from two to three weeks.
How did I know that I could live with a Shiba? The first thing that I did was spend time with friends' dogs, especially those that were shedding. And I mean SPENT TIME! I sat on the floor with the dogs for at least an hour at a time - both snuggling and playing so that I could measure my reaction to having my face (or more accurately my nose) near their coat and how I reacted when the dog was active and therefore more likely to shed some hair. I found that some dogs irritated my allergies to an unacceptable level while others did not. I needed to see my reaction specifically to Shiba hair. I went to a Shiba breed show that was held indoors. I spent the better part of the day inside with the dogs, socializing with as many Shibas as I could. My thought was that if I was going to have a reaction to Shiba fur, several hours inside with a lot of Shibas would bring it on.
There are some things that I do to insure that the relationship works. When my dogs begin shedding their undercoat, I give them a warm bath. The warm water loosens the undercoat and allows me to pull much of it out at one time. (Tip: take your Shiba to the dog wash for this bath and make use of the hair trap in the drain.) I also brush the dogs daily during a shed so that the offending hair is in the garbage can instead of my nose. (When they aren't shedding, I brush the dogs weekly.) I purchased a HEPA air filter for my house, but only seem to need it during the sheds.
I have adopted two Shibas without negatively impacting my asthma or allergies. In fact, trying to keep up with them actually gives my respiratory system a good work out every day. I am flourishing under the love and attention they give me very single day. And we lived happily ever after.
If you have more questions for
Mary about living with Shibas and allergies, please
us and we will pass them on to her!