I feel slightly sheepish writing this post – I don’t suffer from dog allergies.
In fact, I could probably sweep out a kennel with a push broom without suffering a single sniffle!
But I am allergic to some dusts and pollens, so I know how awful allergies are.
I’ve also seen pet allergies in loved ones. My brother became allergic to our pet hamsters when we were kids, and my wife struggles with the Rottweiler hair that covers everything we own!
So, what do you do when you have pet allergies? You can’t very well live a proper life without a dog (scientific fact), but you can’t live life mainlining antihistamines and stuffing tissues in your pockets, either.
What is an allergy-stricken, dog-loving guy or gal to do?
The Cause of Your Discomfort: How Allergies Work With Dog Dander
Before we go any further, let’s discuss the root of the dog-allergy problem.
Dogs produce protein-based substances that elicit powerful responses from the immune systems of some people. These proteins are shed along with dead skin cells and hair – an amalgam called dander.
Eventually, these allergens combine with the rest of the dust in your home, and make their way into your sinuses with every breath.
While these proteins – called allergens — aren’t dangerous, your body treats them as if they are. This is why your eyes water, your nose runs, and you begin sneezing when your allergies flare – your body is trying to flush the offenders from your body.
Dog dander contains two important allergens. In their perpetual quest for poetry, scientists designate these allergens as Canis familiaris allergen 1 and Canis familiaris allergen 2. These are most often abbreviated as Can fam 1 and Can fam 2. Can fam 1 is the primary allergen that afflicts humans, while Can fam 2 is an allergen of secondary importance.
Some breeders have sought to produce dogs that do not produce these allergens, or at least, do not produce a great quantity of them. Many are also light shedders when compared to other dog breeds.
These breeds are called “hypoallergenic” (hypo- is a prefix that means “less” or “reduced”), and they are often recommended for those with allergies.
Discouraging Data: Are Hypoallergenic Dogs Just A Myth?
Unfortunately, scientists have recently collected some discouraging data about hypoallergenic breeds. One such study was published in a 2011 issue of American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy.
Scientists collected dust samples from the homes of 173 families with a single, inside-living dog. The dust was analyzed for Can Fam 1, and the results tabulated.
Surprisingly, when the researchers compared the dust from homes with hypoallergenic breeds and compared them with homes with non-hypoallergenic breeds, they found no statistically significant difference between the two! Not good news for your nose.
Other scientists conducted a similar study about a year later and published their findings in Journal of Clinical Immunology. In addition to dust, these scientists also examined hair samples.
This study found that the dust samples in homes with Labradoodles (one of the most frequently cited hypoallergenic breeds) contained less Can fam 1 than homes with other breeds. However, no meaningful differences in Cam fam 1 concentration were found in dust samples from homes with other “hypoallergenic” breeds.
Perhaps most troubling was the results of the hair samples. The scientists found that hair samples from purportedly hypoallergenic breeds had “significantly higher” Can fam 1 concentrations that non-hypoallergenic breeds.
In totality, the data demonstrates that many so-called hypoallergenic breeds are not any better for your allergies than other breeds. Some may even be worse!
So is a danderless-dog an option? No. The truth is that all dogs have dander – some simply have less of it than others.
Manage Your Canine Allergies With A Multi-Faceted Approach
While empirical data fails to support the notion that so-called hypoallergenic breeds produce fewer allergens, some anecdotal accounts suggest they are less troubling for allergy sufferers.
These may precipitate from the placebo effect, or they could be related to the relatively modest amount of hair some of these breeds shed (so even if dog hairs contain the same concentrations of Can fam 1, at least some breeds shed less of that dander-packed hair).
No matter the case, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water. You should take every step possible to reduce the allergens in your home, and some of these breeds may help in that regard.
Additionally, take the following steps to help soothe your allergy symptoms:
- Opt for a small breed. When all other things are equal, a smaller dog will produce less dander than a larger dog will.
- Keep your dog well groomed. This will help wash a considerable amount of these allergens down the drain before they can infiltrate your airways.
- Select a dog without a thick undercoat. The undercoat is a thick layer of short fur, which primarily serves to keep the dog warm. Shed undercoat hair is often more irritating to allergy sufferers, than shed guard hairs (the coarse, outer hairs on most dogs) are. Additionally, dogs with thin or absent undercoats will collect less dust and harbor less dander than those with dense undercoats will.
- Clean more frequently. More regular cleaning can also help reduce the number of allergens in your home. Suck up all the dander lurking in your carpets, rugs and your pet’s bed with a vacuum designed to pick up dog hair. Sweep hard floors daily, but try to avoid scattering the dust and dander in the air when you do so.
- See an allergy specialist. Go see your doctor or an allergy specialist if you are suffering from significant allergy problems. He or she may be able to prescribe you medications that will help ease your symptoms, as well as verify that your dog is the source of your problems – you may be allergic to insects, mold or any number of other things.
- Remove home goods that are likely to collect hair and dander. This includes things like heavy fabric drapes or curtains, but you may also want to cut down on the number of throw pillows and blankets you leave on your couch. Couch covers can also make it easy to remove and clean fur from your sofa.
5 Best Dogs For Allergies: Hypoallergenic Breed Breakdown
Remember: All dogs produce allergens. You can’t avoid allergens or dander entirely, so the goal is to select a breed that produces relatively little of it. However, the following breeds may help get your allergy problems under control, due to their lack of hair or infrequent shedding.
Labradoodles are one of the few breeds for which scientists have collected some evidence demonstrating their hypoallergenic nature.
Additionally, many allergy sufferers anecdotally report that Labradoodles fail to elicit the same type of allergic reactions as some other dogs do.
2. American Hairless Terrier
American Hairless Terriers are essentially hairless, although some individuals possess eyebrows and whiskers. Accordingly, they are a great choice for those suffering with allergies. Derived from the rat terrier breed, American hairless terriers have many of the same personality traits, including high intelligence and impressive drive.
3. Chinese Crested
Although there is a long-haired variety called the Powerpuff form, most Chinese cresteds are devoid of hair, save for their head, feet and tails.
Because they have less hair than most other dogs (and are small little buggers to boot) and shed very little at all, they are less likely to cause problems for allergy sufferers than many other breeds.
Poodles are a very intelligent, single-coated breed, which has long been described as hypoallergenic – this hasn’t been backed with any evidence though.
On the bright side, poodles are responsible for half of the Labradoodle recipe, and the hypoallergenic nature of Labradoodles certainly doesn’t spring from the Labrador side of the equation, so Poodles aren’t the worst choice for an allergic human.
5. Portuguese Water Dog
Described as “adventurous, affectionate and athletic” by the American Kennel Club, Portuguese Water Dogs are most famous for their hypoallergenic coats (and high-profile owners).
Portuguese water dogs are somewhat unique among species bred to work in the water, as they have only a single, outer coat and lack a dander-dense undercoat.
Some of the other hypoallergenic dogs that may be good selections for allergy sufferers include:
- Bichon Frise
- Bedlington Terrier
- Coton de Tulear
- Standard schnauzer
- Giant schnauzer
- Afghan hound
- Peruvian Inca orchid
- Wheaten terrier
- Irish water Spaniel
Taming allergy-related problems is never easy, especially when the cause of your suffering is the same thing that licks your face and snuggles with you at night.
While there is no magic-bullet that will cure these problems, many people do find relief by incorporating the tips listed above and selecting one of the recommended breeds.
Let us know how you’ve dealt with your puppy allergy problems. We’d love to hear what has worked and what has not – which breeds have given you the most relief or the most trouble? Let us know in the comments below!