A: I'm allergic, and B: you're a Boston Terrier, but C: you're a cutie full of charms!
March 18, 2010 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I have asthma and allergies. My husband would love to get a Boston Terrier puppy. Oh and I love dogs too.... how crazy are we to get one? How are Bostons for allergies?

This Squidoo page seems to say Bostons are awful for people with allergies. Any experience with this?

I have bad allergies to all kinds of things. I'm worst with pollen, dust, mold, and cats. We have ferrets and I'm not allergic to 95% of those I've met. I've been allergic to some dogs but not others, maybe this is more 50-50... for example I wasn't allergic to my parents' corgi when I was a kid, but (more recently) congested after an elevator ride with a very large dog, or getting itchy or hives after being licked by others. We are not attracted to any of the AKC recommended dogs for allergies (with reduced dander). Plus I seem to be allergic to pet saliva as well as dander.

We are planning to visit some breeders, so I will have this opportunity to see how allergic I am. I am not sure how easy it will be to tell, as I already have seasonal allergies active and so many people have cats too.

I've noticed with cats I am often more allergic to male cats. Does the same apply to male dogs?

A potentially destructive part of me thinks that I'm regularly sniffling and allergic to EVERYTHING ELSE ANYWAY (dust, grass, all trees & shrubs in Canada), how much could one dog add? Side note: Due to these other allergy frustrations (plus pet ones) I will be talking to my doctor about allergy shots for my seasonal allergies, they last half the year.

Any tips from dog owners with allergies are also welcome. Thanks!
posted by SarahbytheSea to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My grandmother has a Boston terrier and I get horrible allergies from it.
posted by dfriedman at 7:43 PM on March 18, 2010

Surely your husband could learn to love another breed
posted by allelopath at 7:50 PM on March 18, 2010

I am allergic to both cats and dogs and live with several indoors cats and a multitude of indoor dogs (we breed and do rescue so the population varies...but it hovers around 6-10 dogs). I am also allergic to molds, pollens, grass, etc. And yes, my allergist gave up on me LONG ago. I look at it a bit like you do, so many things in my surroundings make me sniffle and sneeze regularly so why not have the wonderful canine and feline companionship?

Go visit the breeders. See what your reaction is to the Bostons. Make sure that they specifically know your concerns and ask them specifically NOT to do any extra special cleaning for your visit.

I do not break out in hives or get itchy due to saliva. I have also never noticed a gender difference (male dog vs female dog) in what I do experience.

In my case I do notice a difference when a new dog comes into our home for rescue or training. I'm more sniffly for a few days to a few weeks and then it seems my body acclimates to their hair/dander and I'm back to my "normal" sniffly self. With that in mind, you may have what you consider an unacceptable reaction when you visit a breeder and your allergies may subside if you live with a dog for a while. Understand that all GOOD breeders will work with you and want what is best for their dogs/pup and their new owners. While it may be tough on you emotionally, understand that a reputable breeder WILL take a dog back if human health concerns make it impossible for you to keep him/her.

Perhaps you could consider talking with a rescue group to see if you could foster a dog to see how you physically react to them. I know we have done this with several folks who have gone on to adopt the dogs they fostered for us.

Good Luck in your search, feel free to send me-mail if I can be of further assistance.
posted by labwench at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2010

My experience is that Bostons are pretty bad for allergies. There are lots of equally cute dog breeds out there that are better though, so why not focus on "dog" more generally and find the cuteness that works for you among less-allergenic breeds. Bedlington terriers are wickedly strange-looking but quite cute. Also standard poodles (which when not trimmed strangely are awfully handsome beasts), and a few others. I have allergies that have gotten milder over the years and I have two basenjis, which are not non-allergenic but less so and I have no problem. They're a handful though, more for experienced dog owners.
posted by mikel at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2010

A dog isn't something you purchase and return if it doesn't suit you--as I'm sure you've heard before. Are you willing to keep the dog (for up to 15 years) if it turns out you are horribly allergic? I wouldn't be, so I would pick a different breed.
posted by sallybrown at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2010

I have allergies to most fur bearing critters and I have 7 cats and a dog. I have asthma as well. I combat them by taking daily medication. I take two inhalers (Advair and Xopenex) and two pills (Singulair and Zyrtec), which control most of my symptoms. During the spring and fall, if I have breakthrough allergies, I take Benedryl as well.

I also find that when I introduce a new animal to the house, I go through a two week or so period of intense allergies, and then it eases off as my body acclimates itself to the new allergen. I also have a skin response ever time I come into contact with cat or dog saliva, so I often have red splotches where I've been kissed or licked. I try not to let them lick my face, but sometimes it happens and if the itching bothers me, I treat it with topical Benedryl and it goes away. I mostly let it ride though.

It's worth it to me, because life without pets is not a life I would personally want to live.
posted by crankylex at 8:03 PM on March 18, 2010

Yeah, what labwench said. But also keep in mind that you may initially have no reaction to the BTs, but may, over time, develop an allergic reaction to them as well. Something to consider since, as sallybrown points out, buying a dog is a commitment.

Allergies are generally very treatable; I take Allegra and a nasal spray which completely controls my allergies to both my dogs and plant pollen. You should talk to your doctor to see what might be good for you.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:03 PM on March 18, 2010

My understanding is that there's no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat. That allergies are caused by the dander (skin flakes), and not by the hair that's fallen out. Non-shedding breeds like Portuguese Water Dogs and Cornish Rex cats, even though they don't shed hair, still shed skin flakes.
posted by ErikaB at 8:11 PM on March 18, 2010

My Boston Terrier I recommend doing whatever expensive and time consuming procedures it takes to become immune to Boston Terrier allergies.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 8:13 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

A few things you can do that will help with allergies no matter what breed you get:

1) Have hubby brush the dog every day (outside.) Especially after walks as the dog's fur can be carrying the pollen that you are so allergic to. Don't bathe the dog too often, it's not good for their skin and can make dander worse.

2) Keep the dog off the furniture and your bed. As nice as it is to have a canine bed warmer, it is really better for you if your bed linens stay dog free.

3) Make sure you change your air filters every single month. I noticed a really big difference when we have nice clean filters. (This doesn't actually apply to me any more, gotta love radiant heat floors!)

I don't have any experience with Boston's (I do love them though) but I have a German Shepherd Dog who likes to roll around in pollen-y stuff (which I am very allergic to) and the daily outside brushing makes a huge difference. I also have to second the Standard Poodle. They are incredibly smart and very sweet dogs, completely unlike their teacup and miniature land piranha cousins. I've even seen Standard Poodles as Seeing Eye Dogs. If you want something smaller there are lots of Poodle Mixes that make great dogs. My in-laws had a very sweet Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel mixed with a Poodle), and the animal shelters usually have quite a selection of these "a-poo" mutts. YMMV with these as far as allergies go though. They don't shed as much because they have hair instead of fur but they do shed some and they still have dander. I guess you could call them 'allergy friendly' instead of 'allergy proof'.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:28 PM on March 18, 2010

I have two Boston Terriers and am slightly allergic to them. When they lick my face and neck I get red and blotchy welts. Some visitors to my home have gotten sniffly and itchy eyes because of the dogs. I use a neti pot and vacuum a lot to help combat my symptoms. I also let them sleep in my bed and in the evenings, I often have a dog on my lap. My Bostons are so clever, fun and affectionate that I am wiling to put up with mild discomfort to have them be a part of my family.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:30 PM on March 18, 2010

I have allergies so bad that I haven't had a sense of smell for 20 years. Among other things, I am allergic to cats. That didn't stop me from getting two of them. The first two months were horrid - persistent sinus infections, multiple rounds of antibiotics, generally feeling like hell. I'd break into hives whenever I got scratched (and since they were rescued feral kittens, I got scratched a lot). It's gotten better, but I'm still popping allergy pills like candy. It's something I'm happy to live with, because I adore cats. It's not always pleasant, but it can be done.

btw, I found allergy shots to be very helpful, in general. I'd start them again, but my allergist is on the other side of the state, and I'm too lazy to find a new one.
posted by Ruki at 8:31 PM on March 18, 2010

Funny that no one has mentioned using anti-allergen products.
They really work. really. I use a pet shampoo for regular baths, plus
this product, which is excellent. When you first get your puppy, cleanse him every second day, or even daily. Then you can do it less frequently depending on how you feel. You will be suprised how well they work. Worth every penny.
posted by theKik at 9:52 PM on March 18, 2010

Also, regardless of breed, some dogs shed a lot of hair & some don't, some shed a lot of dander & some don't, and some dogs lick a lot more than others. My Jack Russell Terrier sheds a lot of hair but very little dander, and he never ever licks people. Meet some dogs and see what they are like as individuals and how you react to them, allergy-wise.
posted by judith at 10:23 PM on March 18, 2010

One of the tricks to being a successful dog owner with allergies: Give your dog abundant baths. Seriously. In my experience, it's less the dog hair or dander and much much more the dust and pollen that gets stuck to them. It's a bit of a pain, but washing the pooch at least once a week will really alleviate your suffering.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:18 AM on March 19, 2010

Anyone tried the Medinose Plus for pet allergies??
posted by dance at 5:10 AM on March 19, 2010

Seconding TooFewShoes' advice. Is there any way you can designate certain parts of your house as dog-free?

I am allergic to cats and this is what we did with our cats. They weren't allowed in the bedrooms. I still suffered a fair bit but loved them so was willing to put up with runny nose and wheezing; but it helped to have a cat-free part of the house to retire to when it got too much.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:39 AM on March 19, 2010

My husband has severe animal allergies, and we have 3 dogs and 2 cats. It can be done, it just requires a lot of work.

The dogs need to be bathed fairly frequently to cut down on dander. They aren't allowed on the bed or furniture. The cats can't seem to stay off the couch or the foot of our bed, so I lint brush those areas frequently and wash the linens every week. I also vacuum regularly and keep the floors as clean as possible.

I suggest NOT buying a dog from a breeder - if you find out in a few months that you can't handle your allergies, you have just created another dog looking for a home in a world with millions of other homeless dogs. How about fostering? That way you can try out a few different types of dogs, and if it doesn't work, you can give the foster back to the rescue group. Plus, you will be helping a homeless animal, which is ALWAYS better than buying.

For specific breeds, I recommend anything with a short, single coat, or a wire-haired breed. We have 2 dobermans and a schnauzer mix, fwiw.
posted by tryniti at 5:41 AM on March 19, 2010

I can't help with the general allergies, but I do have experience with hives from dog saliva. I get mild hives whenever I get licked, but I have 3 dogs. Two don't really lick, but the Great Dane wants to stick her giant tongue all over my face. Any time she tries I let her get one lick in and then stop her. At this point she's adjusted to that and really only goes for the single lick. I figure that's enough to make her happy, but not enough to cause serious hives. Washing right after the licking also helps. So I wouldn't worry too much about the saliva allergy.
posted by thejanna at 5:50 AM on March 19, 2010

I have had asthma and allergies all of my life. I have also lived (almost always) with furry things, whether they are cats or dogs. As an adult, I have chosen pets with hair instead of fur. Several types of terriers are good for this, as are goldendoodles and other poodle hybrids (and poodles in general). I have a Westie and a goldendoodle right now and have had no issues with my dogs.

The other thing I did was allergy medication and allergy shots. Both were highly effective against my allergies. I recommend allergy shots to anyone they will help. They are worth the time and money. I too am allergic to everything botanical in my area (SE US) which means that all year I have symptoms... except I have been symptom-free for like 2 years now because of my allergy shots. They really work. No asthma problems from my allergies, either, because I have no allergies in the first place.

Bottom line, don't let asthma and allergies control which pets you get. You can have a pet and have asthma and allergies if you are strict about medication and knowing how you feel.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:58 AM on March 19, 2010

I'm really allergic to cat saliva. It's gotten worse as I've gotten older. My ex and I had a Boston Terrier (he got custody when we broke up, I really miss that dog!), and I was slightly allergic to his saliva as well.

Big thing about Boston Terriers - they are wildly affectionate, lick your face kinda dogs. While my little buddy was pretty well trained, I could never train him out of kissing completely. I'm pretty sure if he could, he would have knocked me down and kissed me until his little puppy tongue fell off. As I understand it, this is sort a breed personality thing.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:00 AM on March 19, 2010

I have allergies. Son has asthma. Spoke to two head of pulmonology/allergists at Children's Memorial (chicago) and Hope Children's Hospital (Oak Lawn). Both said that while it's the dander, it's also based on breed. So one cannot say oh that poodle is hypoallergenic and that border collie is not. (and cats and horses are on the 95% scale of severe allergy reactions so I wouldn't suggest that). I too had ferrets and I was fine with them.

For me, I'm allergic to all of the dogs people say you're not supposed to be allergic too--short haired dogs. Furry dogs--I'm great. Not a sneeze or an itch (2 border collies).

You can get tested and see if they have a breed specific allergy test.
You can maybe expose yourself to the breed you would like and see how you react.
Frequent washing and grooming helps.

You'll find something you can handle. Good luck.
posted by stormpooper at 7:33 AM on March 19, 2010

pazazygeek is dead right about Bostons - it is nearly impossible to train them not to lick like mad. I adore the Boston I rescued a few years ago, and I hate to recommend against this spunky and clever breed, but if you're allergic to the dog's saliva you'll be miserable unless you opt to medicate yourself against the allergy.
posted by katie at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2010

Wow this is great, thank you for all these replies! It is an important decision, not one to make quickly as it will affect ours and the pet's lives for years, and we appreciate all these suggestions.

Hmmm, it's good to know in advance Bostons love licking. (Geez this sounds so lovable though!) Several people suggested alternative breeds; I'm doubtful since we're pretty picky about dog size and personality, and I have had minor allergies to some of these breeds anyway (yes, poodles). I like @allelopath's longer list.

@labwench I like your suggestions for working with breeders. I hadn't thought of fostering before, interesting thought! & our local Humane Society does this.

@TooFewShoes wonderful, I love your suggestions for reducing problems. Hm it's very possible half my problem is I'm so allergic to grass and pollen. As with ferrets, I'm mostly allergic to the dust they get into.

@theKik those are great ideas. I don't know anyone that has tried anti-allergen products, I will try them.

Since I am already on allergy meds & an inhaler, it's great to know that allergy shots worked for your pets and not just seasonal allergies.

LOL @QuarterlyProphet!!!
posted by SarahbytheSea at 4:09 PM on March 19, 2010

I thought of a few more things that might help you:

-Get a dog bed with a removable cover, or a crate pad with a removable cover. Keep it very clean, wash it 4x as much as you wash the dog. (Wash the cover once a week, wash the dog no more than once a month.)

-A really good vacuum is your friend. Ours is some ancient machine that we inherited, but it works like a miracle. It's amazing the stuff this thing picks up. If it ever dies (it's probably older than I am so it could kick the bucket any day now) I'm hoping for the Dyson that does pet hair.

-The kind of dog brush you use matters. We had one of these at first, and it wasn't working very well. Then we got one of these and it made a huge difference. I go over her coat with the rake first then use the other one to catch any lingering wispy fur that might be hanging on. Be aware that there will be two 'blow outs' every year. One in the Spring when they are getting rid of their Winter coat, and one in the Fall when they are shedding their Summer coat. During this time I give my dog a bath where I spray the water in the opposite direction of the fur. Then I brush her undercoat by holding the overcoat the opposite way that it grows and then brushing it down. I didn't describe it very well, think of it like when a girl rats her hair, she hold it up out of the way and then back brushes the bottom. That's kind of the same idea. My dog is a horse, so it usually takes a few days to get her whole coat done, but it saves so much shedding. Plus, her coat is always so shiny and healthy looking. And she really loves it. When we first adopted her she was kind of apprehensive of the brushing, but soon grew to love it. Now when I get her brush out she comes over and flops down in my lap. It's like her doggy spa time! (It's kind of a pain how relaxed she gets 'cuz I can't get her to flip over when I need to do the other side!)
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:37 PM on March 21, 2010

Thank you much again TooFewShoes :)
For all - we got busy so haven't visited any breeders yet, but I will try to update.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 4:21 PM on June 14, 2010

Follow up!
We adopted a 8 mos old Boston Terrier from the Humane Society - we were super lucky to learn he was up for adoption and that he turned out to be a beautiful personality match with us! A sweet, affectionate, huggable, smart & happy little guy. Also awesome - my allergies are doing great!

How I'm controlling allergens:
- He's not allowed in the bedroom at all. We use a child gate as needed.
- After this post I clued in that ragweed is growing everywhere in our neighbourhood. EVERYWHERE. AAACK. So when we come back from a walk, he usually gets brushed or wiped down. Helps keep sand out of the house too!
- When we came home from the Humane Society, we gave him a right away just in case he had cat allergens on him.
- He sits on doggie-designated blankets when he's on my lap or the furniture. This doesn't work as well as I would like since he moves around a lot, but at least it keeps some of the hair off and I can easily wash the blankets weekly or so.
- Regular vacuuming and air filter checks.

How my allergies are doing:
- The first day or so I was a fairly stuffed up/more hives. After a week-ish, I was getting far fewer hives. Now I only seem to get hives if I receive sustained licking (>1 min) in one spot or if I wrestle with him. This could be because I adapted to his allergens, but also likely because the first week I didn't wipe him down after walks (removing ragweed) as often.
- He actually doesn't lick that much. Our body language probably discourages him from licking a lot. Especially after .... the poop eating incident.
- I don't notice any extra wheezing or anything like that. I am taking the same medication as before: daily asthma inhaler (Advair) and nasal spray; non-prescription antihistamines on bad days but usually not more than 2x/week.
- I can nap on the couch with him, no problems.

Still figuring out:
- Haven't tried anti-allergen products yet. I want to try these though, especially if I can use put it on a wipe to get ragweed off too.
- Better brushing routine. We have a Furminator and a bristle brush, but I seem to get just as much hair off from giving him a back massage! I'd love to bathe him weekly for both allergens (ragweed and other dogs' slobber) and shedding but he really does get dandruff easily.

Thanks so much again everyone! Love & hugs from us and our Boston.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Edit: - When we came home from the Humane Society, we gave him a BATH right away just in case he had cat allergens on him.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2010

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