Study: Hypoallergenic Dogs Something of a Myth

Got dog allergies? Got a dog who's supposed to be hypoallergenic? Still sneezing and itchy-eyed? You're probably not alone. A new study says hypoallergenic dogs...

Last Updated on July 11, 2011 by Dogster Team

Got dog allergies? Got a dog who’s supposed to be hypoallergenic? Still sneezing and itchy-eyed? You’re probably not alone. A new study says hypoallergenic dogs cause allergies just as much as other dogs.

“We found no scientific basis to the claim hypoallergenic dogs have less allergen,” study author Christine Cole Johnson, chair of Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Sciences, said in release about the study, which will be published online this month in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy. “…the idea that you can buy a certain breed of dog and think it will cause less allergy problems for a person already dog-allergic is not borne out by our study.”

The release states that this study may be the first time researchers have measured environmental allergens associated with hypoallergenic dogs. Other studies have analyzed hair samples from just a few dogs in a small number of breeds. This study was quite a bit broader. You can find some study details in the release.

But how can it be that hypoallergenic dogs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (at least in the allergy-causing department)? Isn’t it common knowledge that non-shedding dogs like poodles, Airedale terriers, and Portuguese water dogs (like Bo, the dog the Obama family got to help with daughter Malia’s dog allergies), cause significantly fewer allergies than other dogs?

Dr. James T.C. Li, chair of the division of allergic diseases at the Mayo Clinic, sheds some light on these questions. He said in an CBS News story that pet allergies are not caused by fur or hair, or even by dried flakes on the pet’s skin (dander), but by a protein in a dog’s saliva and urine. (Appetizing!) That protein sticks to dander, and the gig is up when an allergic person comes in contact with the stuff.

This is where the non-shedding dogs may have a slight advantage for allergy sufferers, he says. Because they don’t shed much, the “saliva-enhanced” dander that sticks to their fur (hair, really) may not be as easily released into the environment as it would with a dog shedding all over the place. This might confer a slight advantage, but Dr. Li maintains that “no dog breed is hypoallergenic.”

What’s your experience with this, Dogsters? Do those of you with dog allergies have a hypoallergenic dog who is making your life less filled with sneezes and watery eyes? Or are you just as prone to allergies with one of these dogs? Does this study bear out your personal experience? Or do you beg to differ?

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