Conducting an Allergy Trial with an American Hairless Terrier (or another breed)

The best way to determine if you are allergic to an American Hairless Terrier (or any other breed for that matter) is to meet one in person.  Of course, there are some basic guidelines to follow to make sure that your trial will answer the question:  Am I allergic to AHTs?

1.      Contact WMK/Karyn Pingel at wmk@ahts.net  (or if you are looking into another breed, start with that breed’s club).  HAAHTA maintains a list of AHT owners and breeders who are willing to spend their time with prospective, allergic families.  These individuals are located in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

2.   We will forward two questionnaires to the allergy sufferer who wishes to participate in an allergy trial.  The first questionnaire aims to learn about the prospective owner(s) so that the volunteers will feel comfortable having them in their home.  The questions ask about the individuals in the family, information about current and past pets, plans for socialization, exercising and training a new pet, etc.  The second questionnaire is allergy specific (see questionnaire below).  It focuses on the allergy sufferers and seeks to gain details about allergens and the severity of response.  It is also used to determine compatibility for allergy trial location.  In other words, if the allergy sufferer is allergic to both cats and dogs and the volunteer also has a cat, then the allergy trial will need to be conducted in another location NOT in the home as the presence of the cat dander will affect the results of the trial.

3.      Once we receives the questionnaires, the information is forwarded to the closest allergy trial locations.  The volunteers have the opportunity to review the information and decide if they are comfortable having the individual(s) in their home.  You might wonder, “Why wouldn’t I agree to have everyone in my home?”  Well, consider this, some people are so allergic that they may have a life threatening reaction.  Not all volunteers are prepared or willing to handle a medical emergency.

4.      Once an application is accepted by a volunteer, the volunteer’s contact information if forwarded to the allergic individual so they may set up a time to do the allergy trial.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about setting up an allergy trial:

a.   Is it better to do an allergy trial in my home or in the AHT’s home?

As a general rule, it is preferable to do the allergy trial in the AHT’s house.  This gives you an opportunity to spend time in a home that has dander built-up over time.  Carpets, upholstered furniture, air conditioning vents, floors, walls, etc. all hold dander.  Even a clean house has dander floating around.  However, if the volunteer’s home has other known allergens in it (e.g., other animals, if they are smokers, use of air fresheners, etc.), then doing the trial at their home will not be useful as a positive reaction’s etiology cannot be determined.  In other words, if you have an allergic response, you won’t know if it was the dog or the smoke that affected you.  Prior to implementing the Allergy Trial Questionnaire, we had an allergy sufferer drive 3 hours each way to the volunteer’s home.  Upon arrival, the allergy sufferer reacted immediately.  However, the home owner had been burning incense, and the allergy sufferer was highly allergic to both fragrance and the dust produced by burning wicks.  Needless to say, both parties were disappointed when the allergy trial had to be rescheduled.  Fortunately, the second time was a charm and the allergy trial was successful!

b.      Where else can an allergy trial be conducted if it can’t be done in the AHT’s home?

There are several possibilities here.  First, the volunteer may be willing to bring the AHT to your house.  This is a good solution as you know you will not have anything in your own home that will trigger an allergic response.  However, keep in mind that you will not get the opportunity to experience dander build-up. Another option is to go to the volunteer’s home but sit in your car with the AHT.  The car is a closed environment and will give you maximum exposure in a short period of time.  The drawback with either of these approaches is that if you have a reaction, you may have to live with some dander in your home/car.  Another solution would be to conduct the trial in hotel. Keep in mind that it is best to select a hotel that does NOT allow pets.  You will need to simply have the AHT come visit you but not stay.  If you select a hotel that allows pets, you are likely to react given the high concentration of other breeds’ dander in the carpeting, drapery, and bedding.

c.       Is it better to do an allergy trial in a home that has only one AHT or more than one AHT?

Either is acceptable.  If you can tolerate a lengthy allergy trial in a home that has 3 AHTs, then you are very likely to be able to live with one!  You may wonder, “Perhaps if they only had one, I wouldn’t react.”  While that is possible, you may still react over time as the dander accumulates in your home.

d.      How long should the trial last?

Simple answer:  As long as possible!  The longer the trial, the more likely you are to get a true picture of your body’s tolerance for the breed.  Even if you typically respond in 5-minutes to other breeds, you will want to spend several hours with the AHT.  These are not like other dogs!! However, many people are still allergic.  Some react immediately while others take hours to respond.  No amount of time will guarantee that you can tolerate an AHT living in your home 24 hours/day, 7 days/week but if you can tolerate being with the AHT for 5-hours, you have more information than if you only stayed for an hour.  Unfortunately there have been allergy trials that were successful but the owners had to return their AHT as the asthma attack began 8-hours after having the dog at home.

e. Should the dog be washed first?

This is a tricky question.  Some would say YES, while others, NO.  The answer to this question depends on several factors.  If there are other COATED dogs or animals in the home, the answer to this is YES.  You will not have a true trial if the AHT has other animals’ dander on it.  However, washing the dog will remove the dander build-up which may give a false sense of security.  Sure it is important to know that you can tolerate a clean dog, but can you tolerate a dog with 24-hrs worth of dander on it, or 3-days worth?  Are you going to be able to wash the dog daily?  You will also need to find out what product is used to wash the dog.  It is possible that a fragranced shampoo or post-bath lotion will cause a reaction in the allergy sufferer.  If the AHT is the only breed of dog in the home, we typically recommend that the dog NOT be washed so that the allergy sufferer gets the “worst case scenario.”  If they can pass a trial with an AHT with a week of dander build-up, they are more likely to be successful in adding an AHT to their home.

f.        Should I see how I do without touching the AHT or should I go for a maximum exposure trial?

This is another personal decision and it goes back to the “worst case scenario” theme.  If you plan to limit your contact with the AHT when it gets to your home, then just seeing if you can tolerate being in an AHT’s home may be sufficient.  However, if you plan to pet the dog or have it lay on your lap or lick you, you will want to try it to see how you react.

g. Is it better to do an allergy trial with a puppy or an adult dog?

Puppies and adult dogs have different systems and as such, the enzymes found in their dander, saliva, and urine are different.  Typically we have found that if you can tolerate a puppy, you will be able to tolerate an adult but not necessarily vice versa.  Several AHT owners have reported mild allergic responses to their 2-6 month old pups but that the reaction lessened over time.  This is likely due to the maturation process and the change in the enzymes that occur. It may also be due to improved house training such that elimination of accidents in the home lessens the allergens in the home and therefore lessens the response.  Another possibility is that the allergy sufferer builds up tolerance and their reaction decreases.

h.      I normally take allergy medicine.  Should I take it before my allergy trial?

If you regularly take allergy medicine, then yes, you should take it.  If you typically only take medication to stop a reaction or prior to going into a situation where you suspect you will have a reaction (in other words, it is not something you take daily), it is not recommended that you take your medication.  Of course, this is also a personal decision.  If you feel that by preventing the reaction, you may be able to have an AHT, then by all means, take the medication.  However, you must realize that you only know how you will do with the medication in your system.  So, you may need to take the medicine daily if you have an AHT in your home.  Make sure this is something you are willing to do, if you go this route.

i.        I had a mild reaction during the allergy trial.  Does this mean I can’t have an AHT?

This is a personal decision.  Some people are willing to live with a stuffy nose or itchy eyes so they may have dog or so that others in the home can have one.  Often environmental/behavioral modifications, such as: providing physical barriers to keep the AHT out of certain areas, keeping your dog off the furniture, using air filters, cleaning and vacuuming frequently, washing the dog and the dog’s bedding regularly, limiting physical contact with the dog or washing your hands immediately after petting the dog, as well as discussing allergy medications (new or modified dosing)/shots with your doctor, can reduce your reaction sufficiently so that an AHT can be part of your family.  Sometimes this is not the case and a mild reaction during a 4-hour trial is an indicator of a more severe reaction that would occur if the exposure time had doubled.

j.        What else do I need to know about participating in an allergy trial?

Allergy Trial Etiquette!  I know, that sounds a bit “over-the-top.”  However, some AHTA volunteers have experienced some less-than-perfect allergy trials and have considered removing themselves from our volunteer list.  We do not want that to happen as it is very important for allergy sufferers to be able to do their allergy trials before considering adding an AHT to their home.  Please remember the following things:

1.      These people are volunteering their time to help you.

2.      You are being welcomed into their home as guests.  Please be kind, courteous, and considerate.

3.      If the homeowner has 3 hrs or 4 hrs dedicated for the trial, respect that.  Do not come before the designated appointment time and do not overstay your welcome.  If you feel you need a longer trial than what has been offered, it will need to be rescheduled.  Yes, we understand that you may be traveling quite a distance to complete the trial.  However, some owners have spouses that are not as supportive of the activity or they may have other plans that day.  We need to respect their time.  So, when they are ready for the trial to end, it needs to end.  Please work this out in advance so everyone is on the same page.

4.      Please do not bring people who are not allergic.  This is not an opportunity to just “meet” the breed.  That can be done at any location and doesn’t need to take hours.  If the adults are allergic, please find a place for the children to stay during the trial.  Parents, remember that it is heartbreaking for a child to watch you react and not be able to have the doggy.  If the children are allergic, then they should participate in the allergy trial. However, you will need to remind them of their manners and the proper way to behave in someone else’s home (e.g. do not ask for food).  Please bring your children food/drinks/games whatever they’ll need.  Do not expect the homeowner to serve refreshments or to entertain.

5.      Parents, if your children are participating in the allergy trial, remind them of their manners and please keep an eye on them. If they are not behaving, you’ll need to terminate the trial.

k.      There isn’t an AHT within 6-hours of my home.  How can I see if I am allergic?

You can begin with a Remote Allergy Trial with the help of the HAAHTA.  A Remote Trial affords the allergic person an opportunity to test their reaction to an AHT’s dander without having them physically present.

Steps for a Remote Allergy Trial:

1) Obtain the AHT owner’s address via AHTA, 2 Express Mail bags, 2 or more t-shirts that belong to the allergic person, and a 1-gallon sized Zip-Lock bag PER shirt
2) Address one Express mail bag to the breeder and enclose the other Self-Addressed Express mail bag with postage prepaid
3) Place t-shirts and self-addressed/postage paid envelope into Express mail bag (addressed to AHT owner)
4) AHT owner will “infect” ONE t-shirt with dog’s dander by allowing dog to lay on the t-shirt and/or by rubbing it on the dog.  The other shirt will remain dander free.  However, you will not know which one has the dander on it.
5) AHT owner will return t-shirts to you in the self-addressed postage paid Express mail bag you included when you sent the t-shirts
6) You will wear one t-shirt at a time to see if you have a reaction ….make note of which one you are wearing if you do!  Remember, one has NO dander and the other one DOES NOT!
7) If you DO react, you’ll know the AHT is probably not for you…IF you DON’T react, a live trial is still recommended (see above for recommendations).

Please keep in mind that no allergy trial is perfect.  A failed allergy trial under one set of circumstances, does not guarantee a failed trial if the situation changes.  In other words, if your allergy trial was conducted in a) a home with carpeting and several dogs with a lot of dander (most likely to react) vs. b) a home with hardwood flooring, one dog in isolation and limited exposure time (least likely to react), you are likely to experience different results.  Best laid plans may not yield the desired result.

If the allergy trial is successful and you decide to add an AHT (or other breed to your home), please do your homework and do lots of thinking.  Discuss your allergy situation with the breeder.  Request that your contract include a term about the return policy in the event of allergy issues.  Although this is easy to say, returning a pup after the family falls in love, is not an easy thing.  Sure the clause will ease your fears about “what do I do if I can’t tolerate the dog” and it will allow you to do an allergy “trial” in your home.  However, you must consider the ramifications of bringing the dog home, becoming attached, loving him/her, and then having to consider sending them away. You can tell yourself or your children in advance that it is a “trial,” and that the dog may not stay. You may even have discussed “how will we feel if we can’t keep the dog.” But nothing really prepares you for having to make such a decision. All in all, if you have any doubts as to whether you’ll be able to keep the dog, you may not want to do it in the first place (for your sake and for the dog’s well-being). The decision to add a dog to your home should be a FOREVER decision and is not one that should be taken lightly.

Through the allergy trial process, many allergic families have been able to experience the love and companionship of a dog for the first time in their lives.  Helping this occur is rewarding and heartwarming.  For additional information about allergy trials or if you own an AHT and would like to volunteer to do allergy trials in your home, please contact us at wmk@ahts.net .