Can I have a dog if I have COPD

COPD And Pets: Can I Have A Dog If I Have COPD?

Medical experts refer to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow. Its usual causes come from long-term exposures to cigarette smoke and other irritating gasses or particulate matter. When a person develops COPD, they may experience its hallmark signs, including chronic coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and mucus production.

Living with COPD can be lonely because you must stay home to prevent environmental risks and pollutants. Hence, you might consider adopting a pet to accompany you in your house throughout the day.

However, since some people believe that pet hair and dander can be dangerous to people with this illness, you may ask, can I have a dog if I have COPD? Read on to discover the answer!

Can You Have a Dog if You Have COPD?

The short answer is yes, but with restrictions and limitations.

Unfortunately, COPD can bring stress and other physical or psychological effects to its victims. Such consequences can include depression, chronic pain, anxiety, sinus arrhythmia, and irregular heart rate. Also, what makes it worse is the burden of taking a life-long intravenous medication and oxygen therapy to enhance the quality of life.

With that said, adopting a pet can enhance your mood and reduce the risks of experiencing these psychological symptoms. Besides, having something to care for will give you a sense of belonging and purpose, improving your physical and emotional pain. 

In addition, having a pet around you will offer a healthier and more regular daily routine. That is because dogs often require morning walks and active lifestyles. Thus, since that is the case, you will also need to wake up early at a fixed time, engage in playtime, and do different activities. 

Nevertheless, there can be some downfalls in adopting a pet, especially when your condition with COPD is severe. For instance, you may be unable to clean, feed, and care for your dog regularly because you may lack the energy to do it. Furthermore, if you choose a breed that contributes to airborne allergens, you can get exposed to these respiratory irritants that may worsen symptoms and inflammation.

elderly with COPD holding dog

What Are the Triggers for COPD?

It is advisable to understand COPD triggers better because knowing them can help you avoid each situation. However, patients with this disease can experience different triggers, depending on the severity of the illness and the patient's physical condition. Fortunately, here are the common ones to give you ideas.

  1. Indoor and outdoor dust
  2. Pet hair, fur, or dander 
  3. Outdoor and indoor pollution, such as fumes from cooking and oil heaters
  4. First-hand and second-hand tobacco smoke
  5. Chemical fumes from paints, toxic cleaning products, and other solvents
  6. Extreme weather, regardless if it is cold or hot 
  7. Pollen allergies, especially during spring and autumn
  8. The excessive smell of scented candles, perfumes, and air fresheners

Can Having a Pet Aggravate COPD?

People with COPD may aggravate their condition if they live with pets that shed too much. That is because pet dander or tiny skin bits from dogs, cats, and other pets can lead to adverse reactions in individuals with respiratory conditions, including COPD and asthma. 

Therefore, people with these conditions must be extra careful to ensure they will not get exposed to these pet allergens. While dander is microscopic, they are excessively challenging to remove but easy to spread to different surfaces in your home.

Lastly, pets can also bring parasites, bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that may get into you and lead to respiratory diseases. Not to mention that their urine and saliva can also stick to their fur and skin, further spreading allergens to humans.

Does Having a Dog Have Benefits for People With COPD?

On the other hand, adopting dogs also brings numerous benefits to people with COPD. First, they can reduce stress, improve mood, and prevent unwanted mental or psychological effects. Thus, if you have anxiety and stress, you can be with your furry friend to get over them.

One of the benefits of pets is that they also require you to engage in physical activities, making you have a healthier and more active lifestyle. Thanks to their cheerful and playful personalities, you can always have a blissful day despite your condition. 

Aside from that, dogs can also detect medical conditions, such as fainting, seizures, and low blood sugar. Some studies suggest that dogs can detect sugar levels and notify their owners if their sugar levels are low. Therefore, if you also have diabetes, you can feel more loved and cared for with a four-legged friend! 

What Are Some of the Best Dog Breeds for People With COPD?

Choosing the best dog breed is crucial if you have COPD because pet fur, hair, and dander can put you to risk. For instance, we do not recommend Dobermans, Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards, German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, and Huskies because they may be dangerous to your condition. If that is the case, here are the most advisable ones!

1. Shih Tzu

Since people with COPD, asthma, and allergies need a dog that does not shed much, a Shih Tzu is highly advisable because its fur does not fall off often. Translated from the Chinese name "little lion," this dog breed consists of adorable and lovable dogs that will never cause you to conflict about aggressive behaviors. However, even though they are excellent lap dogs and companions, you will still need to clean and brush them regularly due to their long coats.

2. Poodle

Poodles can also make excellent yet friendly pets due to their playfulness and temperament. Although they require you to keep them groomed, cleaned, and physically active, their curly coats perfectly suit your allergies, asthma, and COPD. 

3. Labradoodle

In terms of popularity, the Labradoodle is continuously becoming famous among various individuals over the years. This breed possesses extroversion, affection, calm temperament, and friendliness, making them one of the best family dogs. 

Nonetheless, you may need to research information and find a trustworthy breeder to choose a hypoallergenic labradoodle. There can be three distinct types, including F1, F3, and F2, the most hypoallergenic. In this case, you can also ask your veterinarian if they have recommendations.

4. Portuguese Water Dog

If you live near a body of water, adopting a Portuguese water dog is advisable because this dog breed loves water due to its water-resistant coat. Hence, since it spends most of its time outdoors, it is less likely to produce dander and hair indoors.

Also, thanks to its curly hair, you will not worry about your condition and allergies. The only thing they will require you is exercise or regular physical activities.

5. Bichon Frise

Living in a busy and small apartment is not a conflict with this breed because the Bichon Frise is gentle, happy, and tiny. Its coat does not produce dander, which is perfect for people with COPD and asthma. Furthermore, its curly hair does not shed and continuously grows so that you can maintain it.  

6. Yorkshire Terrier

Are you looking for a dog breed that can offer long years of love, laughs, and companionship? You better take the opportunity to adopt a Yorkshire Terrier that can live up to 11 or 15 years!

These canines are small, aggressive, and dignified. Moreover, they are some of the best dogs for people with COPD, allergies, and asthma because they have low-allergen coats. 

elderly woman with COPD holding dog

11 Important Precautions for Fur Parents With COPD

Since there can be a few risks in adopting pets with this condition, some precautions you can take as a fur parent with COPD include the following tips. 

  1. It is best not to let your dog come near your face because fluff danders and germs can spread, leading the disease to become negatively aggravated.
  2. Cleaning and grooming your dog can reduce the risk of spreading danders and pet hair. 
  3. If you wish to lessen your dog's shedding, you better bathe it not too often to prevent dry and irritated skin.
  4. Ask a family member, professional, friend, or someone else to groom and bathe your pet. That way, you can minimize your exposure to pet hair and dander during the cleaning. 
  5. If you do not want to bathe or groom your dog, you can use professional products like pet wipes to clean it effectively. Also, these things do not strip the natural oils from its fur.
  6. Wear a mask when grooming, and brush or clean your pet outside the house to lessen the risk of spreading fur and dander inside. 
  7. You can use vacuum cleaners to remove pet dander around the house. Using these machines is also advisable because they are easier to clean and maintain.
  8. Keep your home away from dander stashed in dust particles using high-efficiency particulate air purifiers (HEPA purifiers). 
  9. Clean carpets, toys, cages, and litter boxes thoroughly to eliminate your pet's saliva, urine, dander, and fur.
  10. Keep your pet away from your bedroom. If it ever comes inside it, you must sanitize it immediately to upkeep it dander and fur-free.
  11. Bring your dog to regular veterinary visits. You can take it to updated vaccination schedules, grooming, cleaning, and check-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dog hair cause lung problems?

Yes. If you accidentally inhale pet hair and dander, these particles can make their way into your lungs. If they stay there for a long time, they can lead to lung lining inflammation and scar your airways. Once you fail to discover such circumstances, they can progress into chronic lung disease.

Can pets cause respiratory problems?

Yes. You can get respiratory problems from pets if you have pet allergies. For instance, dogs that shed fur or dander can spread into you inside your house.

When that happens, you can suffer from a skin rash, contact dermatitis, hives, or trigger your asthma (if you are asthmatic). Also, symptoms may include swollen nasal passages, sneezing, shortness of breath, watery eyes, itching, and a stuffy nose.

What should a COPD patient avoid?

There can be numerous things a person with COPD must avoid. For example, they must not overwork themselves, engage in activities that produce stress, come near people who smoke, skip exercise schedules, sleep late, leave home without oxygen, and stay dehydrated for a long time.

Regarding food consumption, they should limit few fried foods, caffeine, soda, excess salt, dairy products, and cured meats. 

Can dog hair aggravate COPD?

Yes. As stated earlier, dog hair and fur can risk one's health if inhaled accidentally. The tiny hairs and possible dander can travel down into your lung and dwell there. Once that happens, these particles can cause inflammation to your lung lining and scars on your airways. So, if you have COPD, you may expect it will aggravate your condition in no time.

Can dog hair make a cough worse?

Yes. Dog hair can also aggravate your cough, especially when you have pet allergies and pets that shed too much hair, fur, and dander. Once these things fall off, they can fly to you, making you sneeze and cough even more.

Combat COPD With An Adorable Furry Best Friend 

Living with COPD can be a challenging game, but adopting a furry friend can make things lighter. They bring maximum happiness, comfort, a sense of belonging, and a companion. Moreover, they can be with you as you go through your therapies and medications, making you feel less alone and burdened. 

With that said, you can always bring a friend into your home to turn the tables and be happier. However, research, consult, and select the best dog breed that suits your condition. 

References:

  1. COPD: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8709-chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd
  2. American Lung Association. (n.d.). Pet Dander. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/pet-dander 
  3. Huston, S. (2015, October 30). Pets with COPD? COPD.net. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://copd.net/living/pets-with-copd 
  4. Weber, K. S., Roden, M., & Müssig, K. (2016). Do dogs sense hypoglycaemia?. Diabetic medicine: a journal of the British Diabetic Association, 33(7), 934–938. https://doi.org/10.1111/dme.12975 
  5. Grichuhin, A. (2022, November 25). Can COPD Patients Own a Pet? Find Out! Home Rehabilitation Network. https://thehomerehabnetwork.com/can-copd-patients-own-a-pet-find-out/ 
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