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We love them so much that about 63% of U.S. households have one. And if you don’t currently own one, you’ve probably had a dog at some point in your life. So, you know that while they’re a major source of joy, they’re also a source of fur — and with fur comes dander (dead skin cells) — and with dander comes allergies.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as three in 10 people with allergies in this country have pet allergies. Pet allergies are also quite common with people who have asthma or other allergies and they can be triggered by proteins in a dog’s saliva, urine or dander. While the sneezing, irritated eyes, congestion and other reactions are annoying, some people still can’t fight the urge to be around or even own a dog. For those who live with pet allergies, is it actually possible to get a dog that is “hypoallergenic?”
Keep reading to find out the answer from immunologist Sandra Hong, MD, and to get some helpful tips for managing pet allergies.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
“Hypoallergenic” pretty much refers to something having a small chance of triggering an allergic reaction. If you wear jewelry or use a lot of cosmetics or personal products, you’ve seen this term before. If something has a greater chance of triggering a reaction, it’s simply considered “allergenic.”
Are hypoallergenic dogs even a real thing?
Many people seem to think so. But the American Kennel Club (AKC) says that no dog is 100% hypoallergenic. But don’t get bummed out if you’re a dog lover with pet allergies. There are actually dog breeds that are less allergenic. These breeds are considered as such because they have more predictable, non-shedding coats that produce less dander. And less dander could mean that you won’t be a sniffling, sneezing, runny eyed mess on a regular basis.
However, hypoallergenic dogs can still cause problems for allergy sufferers because, according to Dr. Hong, there’s still a chance that your allergies could be triggered.
“Many people believe that exposure to other dogs will trigger their allergy symptoms, while exposure to a hypoallergenic dog will not. However, objective scientific studies don’t support the idea that any dogs are hypoallergenic,” says Dr. Hong.
Dr. Hong adds that a 2012 study measured dog allergens (proteins secreted by oil glands, dander and saliva) concentrations in samples taken from the hair and coats of so-called hypoallergenic and non-hypoallergenic dogs, and from their respective owners’ homes.
The study found that the allergen levels were actually higher in hair and coat samples from the dogs that were supposedly hypoallergenic. And the home allergen concentrations for both sets of dog owners were about the same for each group.
So, in a nutshell, there is no clear scientific evidence to support a hypoallergenic species of dog.
The best dog breeds for people with pet allergies
If you have pet allergies and still want to get a dog, it’s not a bad idea to talk to your doctor or an allergist to figure out how you can live in harmony with man’s best friend. Once you have that all figured out, you can start to narrow down which breed is right for you.
The AKC considers these breeds to be among the best for allergy sufferers.
- Afghan Hound.
- American Hairless Terrier.
- Bedlington Terrier.
- Bichon Frise.
- Chinese Crested.
- Coton de Tulear.
- Giant Schnauzer.
- Irish Water Spaniel.
- Kerry Blue Terrier.
- Lagotto Romagnolo.
- Miniature Schnauzer.
- Peruvian Inca Orchid.
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
- Spanish Water Dog.
- Standard Schnauzer.
The worst dog breeds for people with allergies
If you struggle with allergies, you might want to steer clear of the following breeds.
- Basset Hound.
- Boston Terrier.
- Doberman Pinscher.
- German Shepherd.
- Labrador Retriever.
- Saint Bernard.
- Siberian Husky.
How to alleviate dog allergies at home
There are some steps that you can take to make life with a dog much easier. Here are some suggestions from Dr. Hong.
- Keep your dog out of your bedroom. This will help you breathe easier while you’re resting or getting dressed. You can even use a HEPA air cleaner in your bedroom as an extra precaution.
- If you have carpet and aren’t in a position to remove it, steam clean it frequently. If you have hardwood floors and use throw rugs, wash them in hot water regularly. Use a damp cloth on hard floors to pick up pet allergens.
- If you’ve been around your dog or other dogs for an extended period of time, change your clothes right after to reduce the occurrence of an allergic reaction.
- Cover bedroom vents with a dense filtering material like cheesecloth since air conditioning and heating can spread dander and other allergens throughout your home.
- Use a HEPA filter for central heating and air conditioning units to contain pet allergens that might be floating around.
- If you haven’t discussed your allergies in-depth with your healthcare provider, talk to them about treatment options like medicine or immunotherapy.
- Bathe your dog regularly. It’s possible to be allergic to the pollen on your dog’s coat when they go outdoors.