The Obamas' quest for the future First Dog has left some allergists howling.
Medical experts contend media reports of the family's desire to adopt a dog that won't trigger 10-year-old Malia Obama's allergies has left the public with the wrong impression of hypoallergenic pets. While some pooches may be less aggravating to Malia, all canines have the ability to kindle an allergic reaction, according the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
About 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs, with reactions ranging from irksome symptoms such as itchy eyes to more serious complications such as asthma attacks or constricted breathing, according to ACAAI statistics. Humans, however, aren't allergic to animal hair, but rather to the protein found in dander and saliva.
But with a little research and a lot of rule-following, Malia and the would-be First Dog could lead a happy, healthy coexistence.
Medical experts recommend considering breeds that produce low dander such as poodles or terriers. The American Kennel Club also lists hairless dogs, including Chinese crested and xoloitzcuintlis, as possible options for families with allergies.
Malia, however, has declared the goldendoodle—a golden retriever-poodle mix—the "optimal dog," President-elect Barack Obama said while campaigning in Iowa last year. The adorable designer dog can be a low-shedding option if it has a poodle's coat, but if the coat favors a retriever, it could pose a problem for the eldest Obama daughter.
When a dog is still a puppy, it's difficult to determine which characteristic a dog's coat will take on.
"I don't think I'd recommend a goldendoodle for the Obamas," said Paula Fasseas, founder of the PAWS animal shelter in Chicago. "I see a poodle or a terrier being better for them."
In his first post-election news conference, Obama described the dog debate as a "major issue" in his home and expressed doubts as to whether they could find a hypoallergenic dog at a shelter.
"Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me," said Obama, son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya. "So whether we're going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household."
But it might not be as hard as he thinks. According to Petfinder.com, an online database of shelter animals, there are more than 5,000 low-shedding dogs available for adoption in the United States.
Allergists recommend spending time with the pet at the shelter or breeder's before bringing it home. If, for example, Malia doesn't have a reaction after being around a puppy during a lengthy visit, it's unlikely the dog will cause her problems in the future.
Allergist offers advice on Obama dog debate