Are Border Collies Bad for Asthma?

I may take your breath away. Or maybe not.
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For asthma sufferers, pet ownership may seem like something only attainable for those who don't wheeze or struggle for breath when a furry friend comes near. Border collies sport a double-coat that sheds regularly, which could trigger asthma attacks in those susceptible. Although not a definite reaction, it is possible.

Asthma Triggers

Asthma and allergies are like the tag team of respiratory conditions -- they share symptoms and allergen triggers and put you on high alert for outbreaks. Unlike allergies, however, asthma is a lung disease that focuses on your airways, leaving you out of breath at the first sign of your particular trigger. Various things can trigger this dangerous inflammation of your lungs and airways, such as dust mites, foods and pollen.

Dander Dilemma

One of the big triggers for asthma can come from man's best friend, in the form of dead skin flakes or dried saliva. This dander contains a protein that some people's immune systems have classified as dangerous, which triggers the physical response. Because the protein is in the dog's saliva and skin, when he sheds it sends the offending allergen into the air. This floating allergen delivery system triggers an asthmatic person's immune system, resulting in swollen lungs and airways.

Big Shedders

A border collie's double-coat helps keep him warm in winter and cool in summer, allowing him to chase after disobedient sheep with little trouble. To keep himself comfortable no matter what the temperature, he sheds with every season to make sure he's got the perfect coat thickness. This shedding releases large amounts of dander into the environment, as he drops hair everywhere he lays or shakes. For those asthma sufferers sensitive to dander, this could be a big, possibly life-threatening problem.

Bottom Line

An asthma diagnosis doesn't mean you follow the textbook for triggers. Some asthma sufferers react to dog dander, while others are more sensitive to cats. One person may wheeze the moment a dog walks into the room, while another may not bat an eye. Border collies are no more likely to trigger asthma attacks than any other breed, but are not considered hypoallergenic and thereby “safe” for those with allergies or asthma. You may just have to spend some time with a border collie to determine if he'll set off your asthma. Have your medication at the ready if you do, to head off an attack before it progresses to life-threatening levels.

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