Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shih Tzu Is Not Hypoallergenic (updated)

Shih Tzu's are supposed to be hypoallergenic because they don't shed. Of course, everyone knows that it isn't the hair that is the problem, it's the dander. The Cattle Dog, who does shed, does not trigger my allergies. The cats don't seem to bother me. Nope. It is the supposedly hypo-allergenic Shih Tzu that sets me off.

I started a new asthma med on Tuesday. The side effects were pretty harsh. Friday morning I called and said, "I can't take it anymore." The nurse asked me to give myself a couple more days to adjust. I agreed to keep it up over the weekend, and this morning was better, side effect-wise. My asthma symptoms are worse though. I think that might be because when I woke up the Shih Tzu was sleeping practically in my face.

I should say that I do like this dog. It is very similar to the dog I had as a kid. I would like to train it not to bark so much at passing pedestrians and visitors at the door, but it is a sweet puppy. I like to take it for walks. It likes to curl up with me in my favorite chair. That I don't want to separate from the dog makes it more difficult. Officially it is Brian's dog, but both boys really like him. He is fun to wrestle with, apparently.

And now he sleeps on my bed, because, you know, I'm the one who is allergic to him. Last year he slept in Brian's room, but Brian has moved downstairs to The Domain of the Big Black Cat Where No Dog May Go. So he sleeps with me.

If you look up advice on what to do if you have asthma and a pet the first thing they tell you to do is re-home the dog. Not thrilled with this one. I know that I could find a good home for a moderately-trained Shih Tzu. I remember how difficult it was to find an adult small dog when we were looking for one. It is the option of last resort though and right now my symptoms are not so bad that I'm thinking about it. Keeping the dog outside is not an option. It's a Shih Tzu. It is a people dog. It would be better to the dog to find it a new home than try to turn it into a yard dog.

So...other options:


  1. Keep the dog out of my bedroom. Keeping the Shih Tzu out of the master bedroom would mean keeping all the animals out, which would require constant vigilance from everyone. I just don't think that is likely. So I think the only reliable way to be sure the dog does not go where I sleep would be to move myself into the guest bedroom. Again, I could do it. If I need to do it, I will do it.
  2. Wash my bedding weekly. This will mean buying a new coverlet/comforter because I am NOT washing a handmade quilt every week. I might have to do this no matter where the dog sleeps at night.
  3. Set up monthly appointments to have the dog professionally groomed. I think I get worse as the dog's hair gets longer because I start combing out mats and giving it baths. Regular grooming will help.
  4. Get someone to give the dog a bath every week. Sigh. This just isn't going to happen. I look down that path and all I see is me being irritable, nagging, pleading, threatening, and yelling at Roland. Brian isn't the problem, but it really is two-person job. (Maybe there is some sort of equipment that I could buy that would keep the dog from jumping out of the tub so Brian could do it alone.)
  5. Prevent the dog from sleeping on my bed at night or at the very least not on the pillow next to my face. I've thought about trying to set up a pillow or something to attract the dog to the bottom of the bed. Usually that is where he sleeps. Sadly I really think that the only thing I can do to make sure he doesn't cuddle with my head is crate him. There isn't a lot of room for a crate in the master bedroom, but maybe I could find somewhere. I hate to crate him in a different room, but I know that he would get used to it and probably better and faster than I would.
  6. I need to ask Roland to check the air filter in the furnace. I know he changed it right after the electricians were done, but maybe it is time to do it again. We buy a good, not-cheap filter, but maybe we need to jump up to the really good, expensive filters.

I keep imagining Victoria ("It's Me or The Dog") reacting to my saying, "I have asthma but I like the dog to sleep on my bed." It isn't pretty. Sigh.

I just measured the dog crate. I'm pretty sure I can get it in next to my dresser.

I hope this works.

Anyone got any other ideas?

(De-shedding tools won't help since the Shih Tzu isn't a shedder).


Update: So I bought a coverlet for the bed. It will cover everything, including the pillows during the day. I can fold it back at night so even if animals have been sleeping on it, I will trap some of the dander in the fold. Some anyway. I'm considering washing the pillows, though I'm not sure I will get them done tonight. Right now the windows in the bedroom are open (no one think about the heating bill). I expect to go to bed in a clean room.

Roland confirmed that the furnace filter was nasty again and we bought new ones. We've been going through them, but then the electricians did stir up a LOT of dust. It is possible that the Shih Tzu is getting blamed for more than is strictly his fault.

Roland is also setting up the crate in the bedroom. I hope the dog deals with it without too much complaint. He used to sleep in it all the time when he was a puppy and untrustworthy. Roland is also washing the cover to the dog bed that goes in itWhen I picked up the dog at the groomers I made appointments for the next three months. We will see if monthly groomings work. Stacy kindly left me a link to a device that will restrain the doggy in the tub. I will talk to Brian to see if he thinks he can use it to wash the dog by himself.


  1. Okay, you need to train the dog to stay off the bed which will be hard but can be done...use the crate if you need to.

    Also as far as bathing goes there is a tool that will hold the dog in the bath. It suctions to the wall and attaches to the dogs on petedge, I think you can find it there.

    Also, search grooming sprays that help neutralize dander.

    I will look and see if I can find some other solutions and email them to you :)

    I don't want you to have to get rid of your dog!

  2. Duvet cover to go over the quilt might help as well. My wife makes beautiful quilts also; i know you can't wash them as often as commercially made ones. But you could wash the covering.

    Crate training is a good plan, though it might be ideal if the crate wasn't in your bedroom since right now your asthma seems more sensitive.

    Spring for the regular grooming--just make sure the place doesn't like to use those silly doggy perfumes. When we had an Irish Setter we had him done about every 6 or 7 wks and it was a great help.

  3. Our groomer is a local woman who runs her own place. Her own cocker spaniels wander around and her baby was in one of those doorway baby-jumping things. She seems really good with the dogs.

    She also doesn't use perfumes or even bows, which I appreciate. The dog does always come home with a season-appropriate bandanna. It is just cut fabric, no hems, but it is cute.

  4. My Mom has two shih Tzu's, one is 8 (so I lived with him for 6 years) and the other is 8mths. They are GREAT dogs, VERY good with even small children, very affectionate. The older one always slept with my Mom until she got the puppy. The puppy couldn't sleep on the bed until potty trained, so she had the older dog sleep in a crate with worked great and now they still sleep in the the crate together...of course you probably don't need another dog, lol. But, if you do decide to have the dog in a crate, you can get pretty small ones. I have a vinal crate that folds up easy (it has a plastic frame). It's very protable and conveniant, the cover can be washed too. It's not big but, dog tend to feel safer in smaller area, it is much life a Den and becomes their safe spot.

    I researched breeds that are "hypoallergenic" because my grandmother is very allergic to nearly all animals. I was told poodles are good dogs because they have little/no dander. Even dogs who don't shed Hair DO shed skin (even humans do this) and shedding SKIN can cause allergic reactions. Some dogs shed skin more frequently than others leading being more allergenic. What I discovered through research and talking to my friend who is a veterinarian is that NO breed of dog is a TRUE "hypoallergenic" because ALL dogs have dander. People can be allergic to Dander in the fur, saliva, or sweat. Most people find that regular bathing is what helps. Theories even say that breeds like poodles work better because they are bathed often to up keep with the grooming, bathing washes of oils/sweat and decreases dander. I know you said bathing can be hard... What has always made it easier for me to bathe my dogs alone (even big dogs) is too get in the shower with them. I get in with them, then I wet down, wash, rinse, ring out (the long haired ones) the dog. I dry them best I can and then let them run around the bathroom while I shower myself. This way when washing the dog, I can get in the shower to make rinsing easire (it's ok if I get wet), I can also life the dog to the shower head. Also, my dogs like to rub up against stuff to dry off. If I throw old towels on the floor of the bathroom, they get their rubbing done on those while I shower and not all over the furniture, A detachable shower head with a hose is nice to for making it easier for one to bath. You could also hook a leash to a handle in the shower/but if you have one, and put the dog on the leash to keep from jumping out.

    Pet allergy tips I have found in research are to:

    give the dog a high fat diet to reduce dry flaky skin, bathe and brush dog 1 time a week to reduce allergens in fur, use hepa air filters in the home.

    I hope these help.
    I am a newere reader and enjoy your blog!

  5. Wouldn't ya know it? You like the dog and it makes your asthma worse. Sigh. I am sorry, I hope you figure out something that lets you enjoy your pup and your health. Could you put up a baby gate in your bedroom so the dog can't get in, but the cat and cattle dog could hop over it?

  6. "Shih Tzu Is Not Hypoallergenic"
    Hate to correct you on your own blog.. but they are. Hypoallergenic (The definition of hypoallergenic is "having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction") is different from non-allergenic ("having no tendency to provoke an allergic reaction".) Shih-tzus create (for the most part) less dander and MOST people react less to them. Some people will react to them hence the use of Hypo not non. Sorry that you react to your lil cutie.


      There is no such thing as hypoallergenic dogs my boyfriend's parents just adopted a shih tzu and I have been sneezing more since it got here and I was fine before it came in this house so yes you can be allergic to a shih tzu sorry to tell you that everyone's system is different

  7. Anonymous9:58 PM

    My husband was admitted to the hospital for a strong headache and heart problem. The hospital run a study or evaluation to find out the problem. The blood test result showed a strong allergy of a level 10 for what is supposed to be a 1.5 normal level. The doctor became concerned for a cyst showed in my husband nose result of the allergy and He immediately ask us if we have pets in the house and suggested to get rid of our dog. We are broken hearted, but my husband had been really sick. Any ideas????

  8. Anonymous,
    Your options depend upon where you live. Advertising in the paper, mentioning that you need to rehome because of allergies can be effective. Sell the dog with all its stuff. You can probably even ask for references.

    Sometimes vets can help rehome an animal.

    If you have to take the animal to the humane society, do a write-up about the animal, consider pre-paying the adoption fees. People who are adopting will be more likely to adopt an animal that they know is a good pet and had to be left because of something like alergies.

    You might also want to check to see if there is an independent rescue society for dogs.

    I hope this helps. I'm sorry that you have to make these decisions.

  9. My four year old is experiencing the same problem. We have a Shorkie Tzu (Yorkie mixed with Shih Tzu) and we've had the puppy for a week now and today my son had an allergic reaction. I told him we may have to get rid of the puppy and it broke his little heart. I'm really hoping that we don't have to but I really need to find a solution to this problem. The doctor said he can take Zyrtec everyday which would really eliminate this problem but I'm not sure if I want my four year old taking a pill everyday. Any thoughts or ideas on this?


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