Pet allergies are pretty common: 3 in 10 Americans are allergic to cats and dogs. But being allergic to a dog doesn’t make them any less cute, cuddly, or great for companionship, which leaves many sniffling, sneezing dog-lovers asking, “Which Dogs Are Hypoallergenic?” This is why hypoallergenic dogs are so popular.
But, before an allergy-prone person goes out to get a pet, it’s important to understand what it means when someone says the words “hypoallergenic dog.” Plus, there are many hypoallergenic dog breeds to choose from, so research is key in finding out which breed is best for you!
What Are Hypoallergenic Dogs?
There are a lot of misconceptions around hypoallergenic dogs. One common myth about these animals is that they are 100 percent allergen-free, which isn’t true.
A hypoallergenic dog is a breed that is considered more compatible with people who have pet allergies. To really understand the meaning of this term, you need to know why people are allergic to pets and the qualities that define a hypoallergenic dog. Only then can you explore whether this type of dog is right for you.
Why Some People Are Allergic to Dogs
When someone is allergic to a dog, their immune system overreacts to an allergen present on the dog. Most people think it’s the dog’s coat or fur that a person reacts to most, but get this: Dog fur is not actually an allergen!
Instead, the immune system is reacting to one of three other foreign substances: a dog’s urine, saliva, or dead skin cells called dander. The body perceives these materials as a threat, and that causes an immune response that often includes itchy eyes or skin and a stuffy nose. A dog’s coat usually carries some combination of these allergens, so dog fur can trigger a person’s allergies without being the actual substance causing the reaction.
For some people, a severe pet allergy can even trigger asthma attacks. Doctors can diagnose a pet allergy with a simple blood or skin test.
Qualities of a Hypoallergenic Dog
There is no such thing as a dog that is 100 percent allergen-free because all dogs create urine, saliva, and dander. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply have fewer ways to hold on to or spread these allergens to you or throughout your home, so they don’t trigger as much of an allergic reaction. Hypoallergenic dog breeds usually have one or a combination of the following characteristics:
- They have little or no hair, like a Chinese Crested
- They have a short, single-layered coat, like a Basenji
- They don’t shed, like the Bichon Frise
It’s also worth noting that some people might be allergic to specific dogs rather than a breed. Just because you are allergic to one dog of a certain breed doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to every dog of that breed.
Is a Hypoallergenic Dog Right for Me?
It all depends on the severity and specificity of your allergy. There are many different types of hypoallergenic dog breeds, so adopting a dog will take a lot of research to find out which works best for you.
However, the only real “treatment” for a pet allergy is to avoid the pets that cause your allergic reaction. But if you have mild to moderate pet allergies, a hypoallergenic dog could be right for you.
What Dogs Are Hypoallergenic?
Even if a hypoallergenic dog breed is known for not shedding, it’s important to remember that a dog with a coat will still leave some hair around the house. Again, remember: no dog is 100 percent allergen-free! There are a number of hypoallergenic dog breeds that don’t shed, and they can be broken down into three categories:
- Hairless dogs
- Short-haired dogs
- Long-haired dogs
Some dog breeds will need consistent grooming to ensure their coat doesn’t begin to shed, so this responsibility is important to consider when choosing a breed that’s right for you.
Hypoallergenic Hairless Dogs
Hairless dogs might seem like a strange concept, but many breeds have a loyal following, even for people without pet allergies. One popular choice is the Chinese Crested, which comes in both a hairless variety and a coated variety with longer hair patterns around its face and ears. Even the coated type sheds very little.
Other hairless breeds include the American Hairless Terrier, Peruvian Inca Orchid, and the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced sho-lo-eats-quint-lee), an Ancient Aztec breed known for its watchdog abilities.
Short-Haired Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds
Dogs with short coats that only have a single layer are far less likely to shed because they have no undercoat to get rid of as the seasons change. Some of the popular short-haired hypoallergenic dogs are the Schnauzer (miniature, standard, and giant), the teddy-bear-like Affenpinscher, and the Italian Lagotta Romagnolo. Schnauzers, in particular, require regular grooming to maintain their shiny coats.
Long-Haired Hypoallergenic Dogs
It might be surprising that long-haired dogs can be hypoallergenic, but many breeds with glorious long coats don't shed much hair. Some of the best hypoallergenic dog breeds in this category include the dramatic Afghan Hound, with a waterfall of long hair all over its body; the precious, fluffy Bichon Frise; and the Portuguese Water Dog made famous by Bo, the “First Family” dog of the Obamas.
Choosing a Hypoallergenic Dog That’s Right for You
Now that you know what dogs are hypoallergenic and which dogs don’t shed, you can decide which hypoallergenic dog breeds are a good fit for you and your family. Hypoallergenic dogs vary in size, personality, activity level, and other factors, so remember that their shedding habits are only one characteristic of their breed. You’ll also want to consider many other factors to choose the best hypoallergenic dog for your unique lifestyle!