Can Shih Tzu Cause Allergies? How To Know If Your Allergic to Dogs

Published on July 18, 2019 | Updated on August 3, 2022

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In the United States, up to 3 in 10 people with allergies have allergic reactions to dogs and cats. 

Black and white Shih Tzu dog standing in the grass

Shih Tzu are one of several dog breeds that have been claimed to be "hypo-allergenic" and that they are a great choice for people who have pet allergies.

But according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, there is no such thing as a non-allergic pet.

So, if there is no such thing as a non-allergic pet can a Shih Tzu cause allergies?

Shih Tzu can cause allergic reactions in people who are very sensitive to allergens.  However, the Shih Tzu coat has a thick undercoat beneath a longer overcoat which tends to hold on to most of the hairs that it sheds and limiting the spread of pet dander, the actual cause of allergic reactions.

If you suffer from a dog allergy, but you still desperately want your own furry canine companion, then a Shih Tzu can offer a good solution.

Many people believe this is because Shih Tzu do not shed.

However, this is not the case. Shih Tzu actually do shed, so then why exactly are they such a good option for dog owners with allergies? 

How Do Shih Tzu Cause an Allergic Reaction?

A Shih Tzu has a beautiful hair-like double coat, that any Shih Tzu owner will tell you takes dedication to maintain.

“Although they are indeed a great pet choice for allergy sufferers, to say they are a non-shedding dog breed isn't entirely accurate.”

Shih Tzu often give the appearance of not shedding their coat because when hairs come loose, they often get stuck in the double layer rather than falling onto other surfaces.

The reality is, even if Shih Tzu were a non-shedding dog breed, that is no guarantee against allergic reactions.

Many people are under the common misconception that people with dog allergies are allergic to dogs’ fur.

Therefore, they believe that if a dog doesn’t shed that makes it hypoallergenic. This simply is not the case.

Dog fur and dog hair are not considered allergens.

If a person has a dog allergy, his immune system reacts to proteins in dogs’ urine, saliva or dander. No matter what breed a dog is, it has all of these things.

Therefore, every dog has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, including Shih Tzu.

An allergic reaction to your Shih Tzu is caused in the same way. It is your immune system’s response to these proteins.

These proteins are harmless in and of themselves, however, the allergic reactions that they cause can range from mild to severe.

Your immune system is supposed to zero in on foreign substances in your body in order to protect you from diseases.

People with allergies often have over-sensitive immune systems, which is why they react to these harmless substances that animals leave behind.

If you have an allergic reaction to your pet, it is not because of its fur. Pet hair is actually not an allergen (a substance that causes allergic reactions).

Pet hair is, however, an excellent collector and transporter for pet allergens, as well as other allergens like dust and pollen.

When a dog sheds its hair, the hair can collect on furniture, bedding, carpet, clothing and more, and the allergens that are in the hair can remain on these surfaces for months at a time.

Plus, these same allergens can also become airborne when surfaces that contain them are dusted or vacuumed, a person pets an animal, shakes out a piece of clothing that contains pet hair, and various other activities.

Once the pet allergens are airborne, they can remain in the air for long periods of time.

How Do You Know If You’re Allergic to Dogs?

Maybe you already have a Shih Tzu, but you are not sure if you have a dog allergy.

Perhaps you have not had a reaction before or have not been exposed to many dogs.

If you suspect you might have a dog allergy, of course, the only way to know for sure would be through allergy testing and diagnosis by a doctor.

There are some signs you can look for, however, that can give you a heads up to a potential dog allergy.

The usual signs of a dog allergy are a stuffy nose and red, itchy eyes. 

This is because allergens can land on the membranes inside your eyes and nose and cause them to swell and itch.

If a dog licks or scratches you and the skin in that area becomes red and itchy, this can also signal a potential allergy.

Reactions can range from mild to severe, and if they are very mild they might take days to show up, causing you to not even link the reaction with your pet.

More severe reactions can cause breathing problems, rashes and may require immediate medical attention.

What You Can Do to Minimize Allergic Reactions to Your Dog

If you discover that you have a dog allergy and your Shih Tzu causes an allergic reaction, your first response might be despair.

After all, your dog is your furry family member.

The last thing you want to do is to even consider getting rid of your Shih Tzu.  Luckily, Shih Tzu are a dog breed that cause minimal allergic reactions due to the nature of their silky coats.

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Here are a few other things you can do to help minimize allergic reactions to your dog:

Make your bed off limits

As much as you might like to snuggle with your pup at night, it is best to keep your Shih Tzu out of your bed. You spend a lot of time in your bed, and it is full of places that pet allergens can cling to and hang out for months. If possible, try to keep your whole bedroom off-limits to your Shih Tzu.

Take out the carpet

The best thing to do in terms of home décor is to not have any carpet. Use minimal rugs, and the rugs that you do use should be low-pile.

You will have to vacuum often, but keep in mind that the act of vacuuming stirs up pet dander, so you might want to consider wearing a mask while you vacuum, use a robot vacuum, or even better - have someone else do it!

Clean the air

Run an air cleaner for at least four hours a day. These cleaners can help reduce the number of pet allergens in the air, but they won’t do anything for allergens stuck to surfaces.

Buy the right filters

When it comes to filters for your vacuums, air conditioners, air purifiers etc., choosing the right filters makes a difference. Find filters that are good for people who suffer from allergies and asthma.

If you can't find the filters you need for your equipment, there's another option...nose filters (as seen on Amazon) to block allergies.

Grooming your dog

If you are able have someone that does not have a dog allergy, brush your pet and clean any kennels and bedding. This could be a roommate, spouse or a special chore for one of the kids.

Since a Shih Tzu sheds most of its hair into its coat, daily outdoor brushing can greatly reduce the number of allergens that end up inside of your home.

Change your clothes

Change your clothes as soon as possible after prolonged contact with your pet, and wash your hair often.

If your symptoms persist, talk to your doctor about possible medications and treatment.

Allergies are not fun and they can impact many different areas of a person’s life. In fact, allergies don’t just plague humans.

Dogs can also get allergies, even to their own dog food, which you can learn more about in our article "Common Dog Food Allergies in Shih Tzu."

If you are a dog lover and suffer from a dog allergy, owning a Shih Tzu can be an excellent solution.

Follow these tips above to reduce your allergy symptoms, and hopefully, this article gives you some hope that you can still keep man’s best friend in your life and in your home.

Do you think your Shih Tzu may have allergies?  Read our article "Seasonal Allergies in Shih Tzu Dogs" and "12 Best Dog Food Brands for Shih Tzu with Allergies"

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