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Hypoallergenic Dogs: Are They Really Hypoallergenic?

A new report suggests that the allergy-free dog just doesn't exist. Does that get your dander up, or do you agree?

 |  Jul 11th 2012  |   14 Contributions


A new report came out last week that added fuel to the growing argument that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. This is nothing to sneeze at, since some people are dropping thousands for the lure of dogs touted for their allergy-free properties.

In fact, not only did the study conclude that hypoallergenic dogs are pretty much mythical creatures, but it found that these dogs have more allergy-causing proteins in their fur than dogs who aren't thought to be anti-allergy. Poodles and Labradoodles had the highest amount of this allergy-causing protein of all the dogs studied. 

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Science says this guy can still cause plenty of allergies. What's your experience with "hypoallergenic" dogs? Resting Labradoodle by Shutterstock

The Dutch study involved nearly 400 dogs, about half of whom were of the supposedly hypoallergenic persuasion. Utrecht University's Doris Vredegoor and her colleagues measured the Can f 1 allergen -- a protein that's one of the culprits in dog allergies -- in hair and coat samples, as well as in the air and floor dust of homes of the canine recruits.

The high levels on the hypoallergenic dogs were counterintuitive, until you consider the fact that most hypoallergenic dogs have hair, not fur, and that hair doesn't shed as fur does. That could mean that allergens just hang out on the dog and accumulate until banished by a good bath. That jibes with the finding that floor dust from the Labradoodle homes contained less of the allergen. (It could also mean that allergic owners vacuum more.) There was no difference of allergens in the air of the homes. 

You can read more about the study in this Reuters article, or you can read the abstract in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

I know several people who are allergic to dogs, and got Labradoodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Poodles, or Airedales, only to be plagued by itchy eyes and runny noses. One family we know paid $3,500 for a Labradoodle, and within five minutes, Dad was reaching for his nebulizer. They still have the dog, but the poor man is on a high dose of anti-allergy meds in perpetuity.

We used to have an Airedale ourselves. I've had major allergies to cats, but not to dogs, so the allergy issue is not why we got him. But when Joe came into our lives, I figured that at least I wasn't going to have one of those homes that allergic people can't visit because of a dog.

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Bo, a Portuguese water dog like this one, is part of the First Family because his breed has a reputation as good hypoallergenic dogs. Portuguese water dog by Shutterstock
That was before I lured my extremely dog-allergic friend to my house with promises of my hypoallergenic Airedale. Two Benadryls and 20 minutes later, she could breathe somewhat normally and had stopped sneezing. Oops. It was like learning there really is no Easter Bunny. Could there be no such thing as a dog that doesn't cause terrible allergies without frequent bathing and vacuuming of the premises? (I had vacuumed the day before she came, and bathed Joe then, too, so my normal lack of June Cleaver sensibilities was not the culprit.)

I think my friend would agree with the recent report's conclusion that "The term 'hypoallergenic' is a misnomer that is not evidence-based."

How about you? Do you live with a dog purported to be hypoallergenic? What's been your experience? Do you stock the pantry with Kleenex, or is your dog living up to his allergy-free reputation? Let's talk! Your comments could help others live better with both a dog allergy and a dog.

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