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Do Hypoallergenic Dogs Exist: What Science Says

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

Cute little curly haired white toy poodle wearing a red collar staring curiously at the camera

Do Hypoallergenic Dogs Exist: What Science Says

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Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hypoallergenicity has become an essential focus in the pet world in recent decades as breeders look for new ways to cater to allergy-suffering dog lovers. Even novel breeds are gaining rapid popularity, with a thriving doodle craze giving us a slew of allergen-free canines. With all the attention and hype surrounding them, it is easy to forget that 100% hypoallergenic dogs don’t exist!

While dogs listed as hypoallergenic can provide some relief for allergic owners, the focus on a non-shedding coat overlooks the nature of canine allergens. Let’s unravel the myth of the hypoallergenic dog and explore how our sensitivity to them works.

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What Causes Dog Allergies?

Roughly 10%–20% of the world’s population has a cat or dog allergy. Proteins in a dog’s hair, fur, skin, urine, and saliva can irritate when they make contact with a sensitive individual. Dead skin cells, called dander, are a primary source of allergens, as dogs shed it like dandruff around the home.

Eight canine allergens (Can f 1 – Can f 8) originate in the mouth, skin, and prostate, with Can f 1 impacting the highest percentage of people with allergies. Allergy sufferers can be allergic to one or several allergens but not others.

Because of that, some people may be allergic only to male dogs. Unaltered males are the only ones to produce the Can f 5 protein, which is a canine allergen originating in the prostate that spreads to the skin and hair through urine.

shiba-inu-dog-scratches-its-ear
Image Credit: MitchyPQ, Shutterstock

Do All Dogs Produce Allergens?

Outside of the male-only Can f 5 protein, all dogs produce allergens. Even though a dog doesn’t shed much, their skin, saliva, and urine can still carry and release these proteins. As a result, no hypoallergenic dog breed truly exists.

However, some dogs produce less of these allergens than others, though not the ones you might expect. For instance, one study showed Labrador Retrievers had lower Can f 1 levels in their dander, while another indicated breeds like the Dogue de Bordeaux and Golden Retriever had fewer allergens in their saliva.1, 2

Further research also suggested males generally produce more of the major allergen than females.3

Do Hypoallergenic Breeds Produce Fewer Allergens?

Interestingly, studies found homes with “hypoallergenic” dogs had similar levels of major canine allergens as those containing non-hypoallergenic dogs.4 Many non-shedding breeds are gentler allergy sufferers because of the limited hair and dander they leave around the home. But because they still produce allergens and variations in their levels exist between dogs of the same breed, guaranteeing allergy sufferers won’t be sensitive to certain dogs is impossible.

Shih Tzu
Photo by Edson Torres, Unsplash

Signs of Allergies to Dogs

People allergic to dogs have an immune response to the proteins canines produce. Their bodies view these harmless molecules as a threat and develop antibodies to combat them.

When allergy sufferers encounter these allergens, their bodies respond with several signs of irritation, including:
  • Sneezing and congestion
  • Facial pain and pressure
  • Red, watery, and itchy eyes
  • Skin rash
  • Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and other asthma signs

A skin-prick test is a popular method of diagnosing a dog allergy. An allergist places a sample of dog allergens on your skin and pricks it with a needle to introduce it to your body. After several minutes, an allergic reaction may appear, confirming your sensitivity to dogs.

A test for your allergy is crucial. You may think you have dog allergies, but another environmental factor could be behind the reaction, such as outdoor pollen your dog carries on their coat.

Which Dogs Are Considered Hypoallergenic?

The breeds commonly touted as hypoallergenic are typically low shedders and minimal droolers. There is little focus on actual allergen production, as Labs rarely make the list of most allergy-friendly dogs despite having fewer allergens than most breeds.

Instead, allergy sufferers look for breeds less likely to spread allergens through shed hair, dander, and drool.

Some of the most popular varieties include:

bichon-frise-dog-in-a-studio
Image Credit By: Vojce, Shutterstock

How to Live with a Dog and Allergies

As many experts would suggest, the easiest and most dependable way to get over dog allergies is to remove the dog from your home. Of course, that’s a non-option for devoted dog lovers who have made their furry friend a part of the family, so looking for compromises is an understandable approach.

Talking with your doctor to confirm your allergies is an excellent first step in managing your sensitivity. They can provide solutions like allergy shots to lower your sensitivity or steroid and antihistamine treatments to reduce physical signs.

At home, you can try several strategies to reduce your exposure to allergens, including:
  • Using a HEPA air filter to trap airborne allergens
  • Vacuuming daily with a HEPA vacuum
  • Bathing your dog regularly to remove dead hair and skin
  • Limiting your pet’s access to certain rooms
  • Brushing your dog daily in an outdoor space
  • Changing your HVAC filter at least once every 90 days

Although no dog is completely hypoallergenic, regular bathing can help reduce the amount of dander and other allergens in their fur and the air. We highly recommend Hepper's Oatmeal Pet Shampoo for this job!

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Final Thoughts

Hopeful adopters need to be cautious before choosing their next dog. Despite the marketing and excitement surrounding supposed “hypoallergenic” breeds, every dog produces allergens, and all can spread them through a home.

Low-shedding dogs can indeed be the answer for many. But every allergy sufferer should spend quality time with their breed of choice before adopting to ensure they and their dog will have the best possible experience together.


Featured Image Credit By: michaelheim, Shutterstock

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