A complete guide to hypoallergenic dogs

If you love dogs but suffer from a dog allergy, a hypoallergenic dog may be the answer. First, though, it's essential to understand the correct technical definition of the word "hypoallergenic." As the "hypo" prefix suggests, these dogs are not free of allergens, but produce lower levels of the dander that allergy sufferers react to. Consider the example of an allergy sufferer with a particularly high sensitivity to dogs. Such an individual may suffer from severe allergic reactions, including asthma attacks, trouble breathing and hoarse wheezing. Around a hypoallergenic dog, the same individual may exhibit only diminished allergic symptoms, such as watery eyes or sneezing. It is unlikely that such a person would have absolutely no allergic reaction whatsoever to a hypoallergenic dog breed.

In general, long-haired breeds that shed a lot tend to trigger more severe allergic reactions in individuals with dog allergies than short-haired breeds that shed more moderately. Thus, hypoallergenic dogs are exclusively short-haired animals with lower shedding rates.

Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

While there is no official, universally agreed-upon list of hypoallergenic dogs, the American Kennel Club does note a few breeds that are known for producing less severe allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. These include:

    • Bischon Frise. This breed is strongly recommended by the AKC for people with allergies.
    • Pomeranian. These dogs produce very little dander and can be washed clean of any dander they do generate quickly and easily.
    • Maltese. Maltese dogs do not shed at all, nor do puli dogs, Portuguese water dogs, Irish water spaniels, Havanese dogs, Dandie Dinmont terriers or Airedale terriers, among others.
    • Peruvian Inca orchid. While these peculiar-looking animals don't appeal to everyone, they have no hair at all.

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It's also worth noting that some breeds, like the Yorkshire terrier, poodle and schnauzer, don't shed much hair but are well-known for being excessively vocal. Dogs that bark a lot produce more saliva and dander, which drips onto furniture and rugs in the dog's home.

Advice for Dog Lovers with Dog Allergies

Doctors recommend that people with severe allergies to dogs avoid keeping them as pets. Even though certain hypoallergenic dog breeds may produce less problematic symptoms, constant exposure to pet allergens can cause chronic medical complications. If you're severely allergic but absolutely must have a dog, consider a hardier breed that would be okay spending most of its time outdoors, like the husky.

Prospective pet owners with less serious or controllable allergies might benefit from dog allergy shots. Another good idea is to spend about half an hour playing with a dog you're considering taking home before you commit to ownership. Spend time with the dog, in the dog's space; see how your allergies react, and make an informed decision from there.

Around the house, there are many practical steps you can take to keep dog hair to a minimum. Sweep floors and vacuum carpets and furniture on a regular basis. Consider confining the dog to certain areas of the house, such as the basement or living room, while keeping bedrooms off-limits. Finally, don't forget to bathe your dog regularly. This will minimize the amount of dander that builds up in the dog's coat, and will help relieve any allergy symptoms you may experience.