Leo's Pet Care, 10598 N College Ave #200, Indianapolis, IN 46280

Veterinary Clinic and Animal Hospital serving Indianapolis and Carmel

Office Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-12pm

Phone: (317) 721-7387 | Fax: 317-564-4902


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Hypoallergenic dogs? The truth about people with dog and cat allergies

hypoallergenic dog

Is there such thing as a hypoallergenic dog? No, of course not. Except… sorta.

Here’s what we know.

Myth : Dogs and cats with less hair, or that shed less, are hypoallergenic

What triggers allergy sufferers is a family of proteins, including Canis familiaris 1 ( Can f 1 ) and Fel d 1, found in varying levels (this will become important later!) in every dog and cat’s saliva, sebaceous oil glands in the skin, urine, mucous, hair roots, and in the dander (dandruff) sloughed from the pet’s skin.

We used to believe, and the AKC still says, that there are breeds who naturally produce less dander, and are therefore better for allergy sufferers. Which is, of course, false.

Then came along this troubling study, where a bunch of scientists collected dust samples from homes where either regular or ‘hypoallergenic’ dogs lived. Here’s the result: “dog allergen levels did not differ between homes with hypoallergenic dogs versus homes with nonhypoallergenic dogs”. D’oh!

What’s really fascinating about this study, I think, is that before they went about sampling dust from homes, the scientists had to decide whether or not a particular breed was thought to be hypoallergenic. The scientists found that 60 of the 161 A.K.C.-recognized breeds were listed as hypoallergenic on one Web resource or another. LOL!

Oh! Then these guys did another study, that showed hypoallerginc breeds to have significantly more allergen in their coats than non-hypoallerginic breeds although there was no differences in the allergen levels in the air or on the floor. D’oh!!

CONCLUSION: If a dog has skin, and they all do, it’s going to produce allergens.

STEP 1: How to prevent dog allergies in your kids: get a dog

But wait! All is not lost! The primary researcher for the first study, Christine Cole Johnson, Senior Staff Scientist at the Henry Ford Hospital & Health System, later said “Based on previous allergy studies conducted here at Henry Ford, exposure to a dog early in life provides protection against dog allergy development.”

So if you have dog allergies, get a dog so your kids won’t.

STEP 2: How to prevent dog allergies in yourself: get a hypoallergenic dog

Wait, what?

I just gave you all this great research that said there was no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed of dog.

Ahhhh, but what I did not yet say, and has been proven true, is that individual dogs of any breed may randomly be less allergenic than others.

Check this out: “Allergists know cases in which an allergic person seems able to tolerate an individual dog. No one can explain those cases, except to speculate that such people may not be highly allergic in the first place, that one dog may secrete less protein than another or that a particular dog may secrete a type of protein that is less irritating to someone.”

Remember Christine Cole Johnson above? As part of a larger population-based long-term allergy study, her team collected dust samples from the homes of 173 one-dog families, and found that 163 of them produced measurable levels of Can f 1. If you extrapolate her data, there’s a 10/173 or 6% chance that any given dog may be producing less Can f 1, and may therefore be less allergenic.

It’s essentially luck of the draw. If you’re an allergy sufferer, your very best bet would be to adopt a dog from another allergy sufferer, who doesn’t react to that particular dog. Though that won’t guarantee success, at least it makes logical sense.

Or, if you want to be really systematic about it, connect with a shelter or rescue group, and start fostering pets into your home, one week at a time, until you find one that you don’t react to.

With cats, though, success is far less likely. More people are allergic to them than are allergic to dogs, and cat allergies tend to be more severe.

STEP 3: Bathe your dog or cat twice a week

Bathing a dog or cat at least twice a week will minimize or even eliminate the reaction of an allergic person to that pet.

STEP 4: Choose a smaller dog

…because they’re easier to bathe twice a week.

STEP 5: Keep your pet out of the bedroom, and outside as much as possible

Create an “allergy free” zone in your home — preferably the allergic person’s bedroom — and strictly prohibit the pet’s access to it. Consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows.

STEP 6: Keep a clean house

Scientific research has repeatedly shown that good cleaning practices in the home, including frequent cleaning and vacuuming with a HEPA-filter vacuum, removes allergens from the environment.

STEP 7: Choose carpet-free flooring

Since allergens collect in the carpet and on upholstered furniture and pillows, cleaning all those porous surfaces as often as possible, or replacing them outright, will help.


Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air purifier and vent filters to help reduce airborne pet allergens.

There you have it!

The bottom line, is this: through a little trial and error, and with a strong commitment to maintaining your pet and your home dander-free, and a strong relationship with your human allergist to load you up on antihistamines, desensitization shots, inhalers and steroids, it’s entirely possible for a person with allergies to dogs and cats to bring a pet into your home.

Then when you do so, call your friends at Leo’s Pet Care at (317) 721-7387 and we’ll help you take outstanding care of them.

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