There has been an increased interest for hypoallergenic dog breeds – the non-allergenic dogs offering a promising compromise for dog lovers cursed with allergies, but what makes these dog breeds suitable for people with allergies? It’s not a bad idea to start off by better understanding the dynamics behind allergies to dogs. Discovering what exactly causes that relentless runny nose, irritated blood-shot eyes and annoying sneezing fits can aid allergy sufferers in making informed decisions.
What Really Causes Allergies?
Interestingly, it’s no longer a matter of fur as it was previously thought; instead, proteins found in the dog’s skin, dander, urine, sweat and saliva appear to be the ultimate culprit for those annoying sneezing fits so common in sensitive people. Because these proteins tend to stick to a dog’s fur, it makes sense to choose dog breeds known for shedding very little. This way, allergens shouldn’t be released into the air and onto the floor, upholstery and clothing as it happens every so often with the average shedding dog.
Theoretically, this means that it is possible for some dog breeds to be better tolerated compared to others. However, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, it’s important to point out that there are really no guarantees that a particular breed will produce lower allergen amounts and prevent allergy symptoms from occurring.
Dog Breeds for People with Allergies
These “hypoallergenic” dog breeds are popular among people allergic to dogs because they tend to shed less, and thus, disperse less dander. As important as these characteristics are for allergy sufferers, it’s equally important though to make informed choices by keeping into consideration other traits such as the breed’s personality and energy levels.
American Hairless Terrier
As long as this pampered pooch is well groomed, he will shower his dog owners with love and affection rather than dander. The secret resides in this breed’s double coat: the top coat gives the bichon its signature powder-puff look, while the undercoat traps dead hairs preventing them from falling to the floor. This often means less sneezing and less sweeping, but it also means more grooming as the coat needs to be groomed to prevent the dead hair from getting tangled within the undercoat creating mats.
What makes this breed a favorite among allergy sufferers? The fact that it grows hair, not fur. Hair has a longer growth cycle in this breed which means that it is shed less frequently. The drawback though is that these cute fellows require constant grooming to prevent their hair from becoming a matted mass. Having a groomer shave them in a “puppy cut” can provide a temporary low-maintenance solution.
The American Kennel Club categorizes the Bedlington terrier as generally suitable for people with allergies. Often referred to as the “dog in sheep clothing,” the Bedlington terrier’s “wool is appreciated by allergy sufferers because it is known for producing less dander and doesn’t tend to shed as in other dogs. The Bedlington’s coat is said to be a combination of soft and harsh hairs with a crisp feeling and a tendency to curl. However, as with other low shedding breeds, frequent bathing and brushing is a must.
Dog lovers with allergies shouldn’t be fooled by this breed’s long, silky locks; in reality, the shih tzu sheds very little. When it comes to coat care, dog owners have two different options: keeping the coat short into a cute “puppy” cut or keeping it naturally long. Keeping it long though comes at a price: the coat requires daily maintenance and frequent brushing.
For a good reason, many allergy sufferers cherish the poodle. This breed is blessed with a non-shedding coat. In this case, dog owners need to thank this breed’s tight, curly locks that shed very little and retain dander rather than dispersing it in the air and on the floor. The bad news is that since the dead hair doesn’t make it to the ground, it remains trapped within the curls causing a need for frequent grooming to prevent matting.
For a good reason the Portuguese water dog made its way to the White House. After extensive research the Obamas had to find a breed that wouldn’t trigger Malia’s allergies. Like the poodle, this pooch has a low shedding rate because of his “curly hair-do, which prevents dander from collecting on the floor, clothes, upholstery and furniture.
Going bald at times is the best way to prevent hair problems. This breed comes in two varieties: the hairless, which is virtually hairless unless you count the tufts of hair found on its head, feet and tail, and the Powder-puff, which has a complete coat with soft hair. While Chinese crested obviously shed less and have less dander, as with other “hypoallergenic” dog breeds, there will be allergy sufferers doing fine with this breed, and others having problems.
Also known as the “king of terriers” because it’s one of the largest specimens within the terrier category, the Airedale has also the potential to be allergy friendly. Like several other breeds, the wiry coat in this breed reduces the amount of shedding which minimizes the release of dander. The coat though needs careful grooming because the hard, wiry hair doesn’t make room for the undercoat to grow through. There are two ways to solve the problem: pulling out the top coat though a method known as ”stripping,” or opting for twice-a-year clippings.
This breed seems to have been purposely created with allergy sufferers in mind. It all started in 1972 when among a litter of rat terriers, a hairless puppy was born. The owners liked this puppy so much that once mature, they decided to breed her in hopes of passing down the hairless trait. They were lucky and the breed was recognized in 1998 by the American Rare Breeds Association. According to Woman’s Day, allergy sufferers who had reactions to dogs known for being allergy friendly did just fine with the American hairless terrier.
At a first glance, this breed may not look like a dog recommended for allergy sufferers. It has a long, silky coat that may make an allergic person’s nose tickle just at the mere sight. However, as mentioned, it’s not the length of a dog’s coat to make allergy sufferers people sneeze. The Maltese breed sheds very little, and because this breed requires loads of grooming, the number of allergens is often kept to a bare minimum.
Looking for more suggestion? Take a look at our infographic on non-shedding dog breeds.
What About Mixed Breeds?
There are several hybrid dog breeds claimed to be “hypoallergenic.” The most common are the labradoodle; a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, and the goldendoodle; a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle. As promising as these mixed breeds may sound, when two dogs of different breeds are crossed, the offspring can get the “best of both worlds”” or the worst. Caution should be used. It would be best for the allergy sufferer to spend some time with the dog to see how he or she reacts. From a reliability standpoint, purebred dogs tend to offer more consistency since they tend to produce the same traits from one generation to another.
Setting Allergy Sufferers up for Success
Fortunately, there are many things allergy sufferers can do to help make things work out. For instance, keeping the bedroom out of Oliver’s reach can significantly reduce exposure to allergens. The use of special bedding permeable to allergens can also be useful. Frequent vacuuming and shampooing of carpets and rugs will help remove dander from the floor; whereas, HEPA filters can effectively remove pet dander that is airborne. Choosing hardwood floors, stone or tile over carpets can make a big difference.
While studies show that making indoor environmental changes can help, managing exposure to allergens though is half of the job. Regardless of how much cleaning is done, exposure to pet dander is inevitable. Over-the-counter antihistamine medications can help reduce allergy symptoms. Stronger prescription medications may be needed for those who have severe symptoms and asthma. Allergy shots may be an option for pet owners who are willing to try them, but it takes many years to develop protective antibodies.
As seen, there are several breeds of dogs that could be a good choice for allergy sufferers; however, it’s always best to consult with an allergy specialist before committing to a dog. An allergist may be able to determine if the allergy is mostly triggered by dander, saliva or urine. Another important step is to spend some time with the dog and watch for symptoms; yet, it’s important to recognize that symptoms don’t always show up the first time of exposure.
The Bottom Line
Too many dogs are abandoned each year because of allergies. It is estimated that about 14 percent of dogs are relinquished because of allergies. This could have been avoided by conducting more research prior to adopting the pet and taking steps to better manage the allergies. What Shirlee Kalstone claims in her book “Allergic to Pets? The Breakthrough Guide to Living with the Animals You Love” goes a long way. She claims: “Forgoing pet ownership or giving up a pet should be the last step an allergic person must take, not the first.”