Can You Get a Golden Retriever if You Have Allergies?


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If you’re someone who loves dogs but suffers from allergies, you might be wondering if there is a dog out there that will fit your situation. For example, suppose you have your heart set on a Golden Retriever. In that case, you may wonder if you can get a Golden Retriever if you have allergies? 

Golden Retrievers are not hypoallergenic and are usually not the best choice for allergy sufferers. Because Golden Retrievers shed regularly, they can spread a lot of dander. Additionally, a Golden Retriever’s long coat collects dander, dust, pollen, saliva, and urine further aggravating allergy symptoms.  

So, in case you were wondering, Golden Retrievers are not hypoallergenic, and often they are not the best choice for those who suffer from pet allergies. 

Keep in mind that no dog is totally hypoallergenic. Yes, no dog. Research has demonstrated that even hypoallergenic dogs produce allergens.

However, some breeds are worse for allergy sufferers than others – usually, dogs that drool a lot or have long fur. Unfortunately, the Golden Retriever can be one of those breeds due to the coat. However, they’re not big droolers like St. Bernards, Newfoundlanders, or Bulldogs. 

Not an ideal scenario for an allergy sufferer who has their heart set on a Golden Retriever. However, hope may not be lost if you suffer mild allergies. 

In the following article, we’ll dive into why Golden Retrievers are not hypoallergenic. We will also explore if they can cause allergies and if Golden Retrievers are bad for allergies (and how bad), and much more. 

Why Am I Allergic to a Golden Retriever?  

You may be surprised to learn that although Golden Retrievers aren’t hypoallergenic, they are not the worst breed for those with allergies. 

Not only are there dog breeds that seem to trigger allergies in people more than others, but it seems certain breeds also cause greater severity of symptoms. 

Breeds that typically are the worst for allergies have thick fur and drool a lot. For example, some of the worst offenders are St. Bernards, Newfoundlanders, and Bulldogs (more the drooling).

So, while the Golden Retriever may not be the worst dog for allergy sufferers, it certainly is not the best either. They can trigger allergies in those who are allergic to dogs.

So, how prevalent are allergies to dogs? According to a 2018 research analysis, approximately 10% to 20% of the world population is allergic to dogs and cats [source]. However, no dogs are entirely hypoallergenic, but some cause fewer issues than other breeds.

So, what causes a pet allergy, be it a Golden Retriever, cat, or rabbit? 

Without getting too sciencey, the first issue is that people with allergies have an oversensitive immune system.

An oversensitive immune system to proteins in a dog’s dander, salvia, and urine is why you’re allergic

Our immune systems are critical. They help our bodies prevent disease, illness, and infections by seeking out and destroying harmful foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria. 

The second issue for people with pet allergies is a harmless protein found in a dog’s dander and the dog’s urine and saliva. People with pet allergies overreact to this harmless protein, whereas people with no pet allergies do not. 

IgE’s are antibodies produced in reaction to certain substances. For example, in people with dog allergies, specific proteins found in a dog’s dander, salvia, and urine cause the production of antibodies. 

According to research, four main IgE-binding proteins are present in a dog’s dander and salvia: Can f 1, Can f 2, Can f 3, and Can f 4, which are known allergens. In addition, a fifth IgE binding protein, Can f 5, has been identified in a dog’s urine [source]. 

Okay, my bad – that was kind of sciencey.

So, all you have to know is that if you are allergic to a Golden Retriever, your immune system misidentifies those harmless proteins as invaders. And once that happens, the immune system triggers an allergic reaction. 

Are Golden Retrievers Bad for Allergies?

So, let’s take a closer look at each of the main allergens in Golden Retrievers that can cause allergy sufferers grief. 

Whether a Golden Retriever is “bad” for allergies depends on your sensitivity to these substances. 

  • Dander 
  • Salvia
  • Urine
  • Dust and Pollen

Dander

So, what is dander? Dander is dead skin cells that animals with fur or feathers produce. Golden Retrievers regularly shed, a lot and often.

In addition, Golden Retrievers blow their undercoats twice per year, so these semi-annual “big” sheds make a lot of hair. 

The problem with dander (dead skin cells) is that it contains the protein that triggers an allergic reaction in those with a pet allergy. With dogs that are big shedders – like the Golden Retriever – that can be problematic. Why?

Dander attaches to the fur, and big shedders are also big spreaders!! All that hair with the dander attached get everywhere, be it the floor, bed, furniture, table – you name it. 

Pet hair and dander get everwhere

Because the Golden Retriever is a big shedder, it is also a big spreader. And that means it can be problematic for those with pet allergies. 

Saliva

The next problem for those with pet allergies is the Golden Retriever’s saliva. Often, this is a more significant issue than the dander itself. The allergy-causing protein is also found in a dog’s saliva. 

Consider how a Golden Retriever grooms itself. It licks its paws and fur (and groin area – more on that in the next section). Then, by doing so, it transfers that protein-infused saliva to its fur and paws while simultaneously picking up dander on its tongue. 

Now you pet your Golden Retriever, and it gives you doggie kisses (he licks you) – and the transfer to you is complete.

Moreover, that dander licked with saliva spreads around the house after shedding. And it now gets on your clothes, linens, furniture, and so forth.  

Once the furnace or air conditioning kicks in, the spread of saliva-coated dander can make its way around the house. 

So, the proteins are in the dander and saliva – a double whammy. But wait, there’s a third or triple whammy. 

Urine

Yes, that protein is also found in dog urine. Now, while you may think that in no way can urine be a triple whammy and transfer to a person, you’d be wrong. 

When a Golden Retriever licks its groin area and then licks you, you pick some of it up. And, even if it doesn’t lick you when you pet your Golden Retriever, you’re getting some from its fur, which it licks while grooming.

And, if you didn’t pet your Golden Retriever (what’s the point of having a dog then), you still can’t escape it because it transferred to the fur and dander, which then goes everywhere upon shedding. 

However, there is a fourth whammy for allergy sufferers as well. 

Dust and Pollen

Fur is a great collector. Long fur is an even better collector. So, a Golden Retriever with its long lustrous coat is an excellent receptacle for dust and pollen, which is not great if you have an allergy to those substances. 

Even in people with no allergies to dust and pollen, it still may aggravate symptoms in those who have pet allergies.  

All those allergens – dander, saliva, urine, dust, and pollen – are everywhere.

That dander, urine, saliva-coated hair get into the air when the dog shakes, is groomed, or when petted. It spreads with airflow, drafts, the furnace, and air conditioning. 

It deposits itself on the furniture, clothes, pillows and linen, and the kitchen. Heck, some of it even gets on your food. We jokingly call our Golden Retriever’s hair a condiment

Not only that, but dander can hitch a ride into places with no pets. Pet owners transfer it to areas where there are no pets. Maybe it’s your house, or perhaps the local Starbucks or mall. 

So, if you wondered what causes pet allergies and why Golden Retrievers can trigger an allergic reaction in those with pet allergies, now you know. 

Do Golden Retrievers Cause Allergies? 

So, maybe you’re not allergic to cats, dust, or pollen, and you visit a friend with a Golden Retriever and have a reaction. That may leave you wondering if the Golden Retriever caused the allergy. 

A Golden Retriever cannot cause allergies. It can, however, trigger a reaction in those with a pre-existing sensitivity to specific proteins found in the dog’s dander, saliva, and urine. Then tendency towards allergies may be hereditary and, in part, be due to genetics. 

So, we have to be clear when using the word cause. Can a Golden Retriever TRIGGER an allergic reaction? Yes. Can it CAUSE allergies? No. 

It’s improbable that you have no pre-existing allergies to any pets, and an encounter causes a pet allergy to appear. It is more likely a person had a pre-existing allergy, and a Golden Retriever is the right circumstance at the right time for that reaction to occur. 

As discussed previously, allergies are caused in those individuals who have an oversensitive immune response to a specific substance or allergen. As a result, the immune system overreacts to the allergen. And, it appears that hereditary and genetics play a role in the cause. 

According to WebMD [source], your odds of developing an allergy start in your genes. While specific allergies are not inherited, a tendency toward having allergies is. For example, children with one allergic parent have a 33% chance of developing allergies. With two allergic parents, it’s a 70% chance.

The circumstances have to be just right for something to trigger an allergic reaction.

How Do I Know if I’m Allergic to a Golden Retriever? 

There are two main ways to determine if you are allergic to a Golden Retriever. The first is direct exposure, and the second is testing by an allergist. 

Suppose you are allergic to a Golden Retriever. In that case, you will most likely experience some symptoms ranging from mild to severe upon exposure. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a Golden Retriever include: 

  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Pressure behind the eyes
  • Headache
  • Rash or hives
  • Congestion or a runny nose.

Those symptoms will continue as long as you are exposed to the allergen. Or, in this case, the Golden Retriever. More concerning, however, is that long-term exposure could lead to more chronic issues such as sinusitis or bronchitis. 

If you suspect that you might be allergic to a Golden Retriever, there is a second and milder way to know than direct exposure; testing by an allergist. 

The most common way to diagnose an allergy to a dog is by skin prick test by an allergist. Testing is a good idea because often people think they are allergic to dogs and it turns out they are not. It is something else in the environment.

An allergist will place a small amount of the suspected allergen (extract) on your skin to administer this test. The allergist will then prick the skin with a sterile probe to allow the liquid extract to seep into the skin. 

The allergist does monitoring for a reaction. Typically a response will appear within 15 to 20 minutes if you are allergic to the substance.

The allergist will be looking for signals that an allergy is present such as swelling or redness at the test site. 

Getting a Golden Retriever With Allergies

There are two potential scenarios where someone with allergies can have a Golden Retriever. One is where you can potentially be allergic to one breed of dog but not another. The second is you are allergic to a Golden Retriever, and you take specific steps to manage your allergies. 

So, if an allergist tests you, it will only determine if you are allergic to a dog in general. It will not identify specific breeds of dogs. So, it is possible that you can be sensitive to a particular breed of dog but be okay with a Golden Retriever. 

Consider this research study [source] conducted in 2011. Researchers found differences in dog allergens between breeds, which may result in people developing allergies to some breeds of dogs and not others. 

Specifically, researchers found that certain dog allergen levels in hair and coat samples are significantly related to a breed. For example, higher allergen (Can f 1) levels were found in dogs considered hypoallergenic versus other breeds.

Researchers concluded that there is no evidence for reduced allergen production by hypoallergenic dogs.

So, what does this mean? It means that you may have no allergic reaction to a Golden Retriever. Yet, your neighbor’s Labradoodle causes you to go into a fit of sneezy, to cough, and have running eyes. 

However, unless you’re one of these lucky people who are allergic to dogs but not Golden Retrievers, your only option is to manage and treat your allergies. 

By managing your lifestyle and treating your allergies, you can have allergies and still have a Golden Retriever. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. 

However, be 100% sure you know what you’re getting yourself and your dog into. A consultation with an allergist would be a highly recommended step. 

An allergist can work with you to develop a treatment and management program.  

I discuss tips to manage and treat allergies from a Golden Retriever next. 

Tips To Manage and Treat Allergies

In most cases, if you are allergic to a Golden Retriever, avoidance is the best solution. However, suppose you already have a Golden Retriever. In that case, getting rid of a family member is not an option for many.

So, in those cases, if you or someone is allergic to a Golden Retriever, then you will need to manage your lifestyle and employ treatments. 

If you are considering getting a Golden Retriever, and either you or someone in the household has pet allergies, then discuss it with an allergist or doctor first. 

Alternatively, consider another dog. For example, maybe you’re allergic to a Golden Retriever, but not a Labrador or Beagle. 

Living with allergies is no fun. 

Allergy Management 

To manage allergies, you will need to reduce the number of allergens exposures. That typically involves keeping the dog and house as clean as possible. 

Grooming

Brushing a Golden Retriever very frequently is essential. Every week or a few times per week is recommended during regular shedding periods.

Shedding is much heavier during the semi-annual big sheds where a Golden Retriever blows their coats. During these times, you should brush them daily

Brushing is essential because it gets rid of excessive hair and the attached dander. It also helps the skin generate and spread the natural skin oils over their whole body.

These natural oils help prevent dry skin, which is a leading cause of dander. Since most people are allergic to the dander and not the hair itself, controlling the dander is most important.

Brushing outside is best if you have allergies

Brushing should be done outside and, if possible, by someone with no pet allergies. If you are allergic and have to brush your Golden Retriever, wear long sleeves, gloves, and a mask. Once done, change clothes and wash the clothes, and take a shower. 

Bathing

Many people might think that bathing your Golden Retriever frequently would help control dander. Unfortunately, however, that is not the case. 

Overbathing can lead to dry skin in Golden Retrievers, and dry skin is the leading cause of dander. Therefore, bathing should be restricted to every six to eight weeks.

A bath may be needed if your Golden Retriever has gotten into something it shouldn’t have or is very muddy or smelly. 

If the dog is dusty or has gone for a swim in a lake, pool, or river, then a quick rinse with the hose is usually adequate. 

To learn how frequently and how best to bathe a Golden Retriever, check out this post: Golden Retriever Baths: How Often and How Best To Do It.

Our pup Bailey is getting a bath – he was very muddy on this day, but he does not get over bathed

Allow Access to a Few Rooms Only

Keeping your Golden Retriever limited to a few rooms in the house is a good idea. Specifically, do not allow him in the person’s bedroom with allergies and especially do not allow the dog to sleep with the person. 

However, it is essential to point out that limiting the dog to a few rooms does not prevent transference to other rooms. That is impossible with furnace vents and other people distributing the dander and other allergens.

However, it helps to limit or reduce some exposure in rooms with no access, such as the bedroom. 

Vacuum and Dust Frequently 

Golden Retrievers shed, and their hair can get everywhere. Suppose you undertake a regular brushing routine for your dog. In that case, that will go a long way to reducing dander, but it will not eliminate it. 

To further reduce the amount of dander and other allergens, you must keep the house clean, which means a regular schedule of dusting and vacuuming. Ensure your vacuum uses a HEPA filter to ensure dust particles full of allergens are captured and not released back into the air. 

Use Air Cleaners 

Consider using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air cleaner. Especially in the bedroom and high traffic rooms like the living room.

Run the air cleaner continuously to ensure the most significant reduction of allergens. 

Remove Carpets

If it’s within your budget, consider removing carpeting in the home or select rooms such as the bedroom. Hardwood, tile, or vinyl floors are much easier to clean and less prone to trapping dander, dust, pollen, and other allergens. 

If that is not feasible, which I suspect is the case for most, get a high-quality vacuum, and use it often. Many vacuum manufacturers like Dyson make vacuums specifically for pets. 

Minimize Interactions 

Avoiding the allergen is the best advice, but try to minimize your interactions if that’s not doable. But, of course, Golden Retrievers are such loving and affectionate dogs that not petting them may be too much to ask.

However, at a minimum, try to prevent them from licking you and leave brushing and bathing to someone else with no allergies. When interacting with the dog, keep skin covered as much as possible and wear a mask. 

Yeah, I said it wasn’t going to be easy! 

Treatment for Allergies 

In addition to managing the reduction of dander, treatment for your allergy will be necessary. 

Your treatment will be individualized and depend on the symptoms and the severity of those symptoms.

Your allergist will diagnose your allergy and then determine the best treatment option. Typically treatments involve: 

  • Oral Antihistamines – to treat nasal symptoms, watering eyes, and itching 
  • Decongestants – can help with cough and chest congestion
  • Nasal sprays – are effective for treating nasal symptoms 
  • Inhalers – respiratory symptoms can be treated with inhalers consisting of corticosteroids or bronchodilators. 
  • Eye Drops – may be prescribed for eye symptoms such as dryness, watering, or itching. 
  • Over the counter pain relievers – Tylenol or Advil for headaches 
Talk to your doctor or allergist for treatment options

Your allergist may also recommend immunotherapy. Immunotherapy consists of allergy shots where tolerance to allergens is built up over time by injecting larger doses of the allergen. Allergy shots are an effective treatment of allergies. 

Final Thoughts

So, can you get a Golden Retriever if you have allergies? Why it’s possible, it generally would not be recommended. Golden Retrievers are not hypoallergenic (no dog truly is), and if you’re allergic to them, it would most likely cause an allergic reaction or worsening of symptoms. 

If you suspect a pet allergy, I recommend consulting an allergist first. Not only to determine your level of allergy but to design an actionable treatment and management program. 

I would also advise visiting and interacting with a Golden Retriever first hand. In this way, you can understand if you are allergic to that specific breed and how severe. 

However, I would caution you to think seriously about the consequences of getting a Golden Retriever, only to find managing your allergies too tricky. Doing so will end badly for you and your dog. 

While you may suffer from allergies, your dog will ultimately suffer from being rehomed. And, giving your Golden Retriever away will cause you suffering in a whole different way. 

Hold Up. Do you need a dog training program for your Golden Retriever? I bought and compared some of the most popular online dog training programs to determine the best ones. You can read my review and recommendations here: Online Dog Training Programs: These Are The Ones To Buy

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