Skip to main content
Are Hypoallergenic Dogs Real?

Are Hypoallergenic Dogs Real?

While many dog breeds are advertised as “hypoallergenic,” the truth is that there’s no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog. 

But there is some good news. It’s also true that, with some breeds, allergens in the home may be easier to manage. And there are many ways to minimize allergen exposure and live in harmony with your pet—even if you are allergic. 

What Are Pet Allergies?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, almost 10 million pet owners (adults and children alike) have pet allergies. So if you own a pup (or are considering getting one) and are worried about pet allergies, you’re not alone.

Pet allergies are very similar to environmental allergies—such as allergies to seasonal pollen, dust and dust mites, etc. An allergy is basically the immune system overreacting to a foreign substance in the body.

Normally, the immune system provides defense against invaders like viruses or bacteria. With allergies, the immune system treats allergens (the substance that triggers the allergic reaction) with the same level of aggression. This results in inflammation, histamine release, and uncomfortable symptoms like a runny nose or excess mucus production.

Most commonly, pet allergies trigger symptoms of the nose, eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. This may include…

  • Sneezing.

  • A runny nose.

  • Red, itchy, or watery eyes.

  • Congestion (nasal, sinus, chest, etc.).

  • Hives or itchy/red skin. 

  • Itchy nose or throat.

  • Postnasal drip.

In more severe cases or when an allergy sufferer also has asthma, they may also experience wheezing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. Fortunately, these symptoms are less common.

Anaphylactic reactions (severe, life-threatening allergic reactions that require measures such an ER visit or EpiPen) are also possible, but fortunately these are extremely uncommon with pet allergies.

What Triggers Pet Allergies?

Many people believe that pet hair is what causes pet allergies. While hair plays a role in spreading allergens, it’s actually not what pet owners are allergic to.

Pet allergies are a reaction to allergens (types of proteins) found in pet dander (dandruff/dead skin cells), urine, and saliva.

Pet allergens can stay in the environment for a long time and stick to furniture, carpet, walls, and clutter or trinkets around the house. Pet allergens can even be found in many homes in which there are no pets.

Sensitivities to dog allergens vary from person to person. Dogs produce several types of allergens, and a pet owner might be allergic to just one of these allergens or multiple. A person’s sensitivity could also vary between different breeds of dogs (regardless of fur type) or even by gender of dog.

Another consideration is that a dog may unknowingly transmit other allergens to their owners. After spending time outside, certain allergens (pollen, mold spores, etc.) may enter the home by hitching a ride on your dog’s skin or coat.

SEE ALSO: Cat Breeds That Shed the Least

What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?

“Hypoallergenic” means that something won’t cause allergies, or at least that it has only a very small chance of triggering an allergy. 

All dogs, even “hypoallergenic” breeds, still produce dander, urine, and saliva. As such, all dogs are a potential source of allergens. 

That being said, breeds that are commonly classified as hypoallergenic may still offer some advantages for allergy sufferers.

Are Hypoallergenic Dogs Really Hypoallergenic?

There are no breeds of dog that are truly hypoallergenic. ALL dogs, even hairless ones, still produce allergens. 

The term “hypoallergenic” usually means that a dog’s fur has a more predictable, controlled shedding pattern. 

This could reduce the spread of allergens, since there’s less shedding hair available to distribute allergens around the house.

However, dander and saliva are still big factors for allergies, regardless of a dog’s coat. Precautions should be taken to reduce pet allergens in the home, even with so-called hypoallergenic breeds.

Which Dog Breeds Are Best for People with Allergies?

Even though “hypoallergenic” isn’t the most accurate term for these dog breeds, allergy sufferers could still benefit from considering a hypoallergenic dog breed. But it’s important to do your research and find a breed that’s a good match for you.

Rather than looking at a hypoallergenic breed as a cure-all or easy fix to pet allergies, a pet parent should learn about the breed they want to adopt. 

While shedding is greatly reduced in hypoallergenic breeds, many have specific grooming requirements that are crucial to the pup’s health and wellbeing, not to mention reducing allergens. And some have lifestyle needs, such as large amounts of exercise, to consider.

Make sure the pup will be a good fit for your home. Consider spending time around other dogs of that breed to be absolutely sure your allergies don’t flare up, since allergic responses vary by individual.

Also, remember: ALL dog breeds produce allergens. Yes, even hypoallergenic ones. So you’ll still want to take measures to reduce allergens in your home (more on this below).

With that in mind, here are some popular hypoallergenic breeds that can make for lovely canine companions…

  • Afghan Hound.

  • Schnauzer (all sizes).

  • Poodles (all sizes).

  • Bichon Frise.

  • Portuguese Water Dog.

  • Maltese.

  • Bedlington Terrier.

  • Chinese Crested and other hairless/minimally haired breeds.

Which Dog Breeds are Worst for People with Allergies?

Heavy shedding is one factor to consider, since allergens may get distributed far and wide on all that shedding fur. Other factors include excessive saliva production or poor toilet training habits, since saliva and urine both contain pet allergens.

Breeds that may present challenges for allergy sufferers include Labradors Retrievers, German Shepherds, Huskies, Saint Bernards, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and Pekingese.

That’s not to say that people with allergies can’t own these breeds. In fact, many do—and they live together quite happily. It’s just to say that owning certain breeds may require more planning or trade-offs than other breeds.

Other Pets That May Be Good for Allergy Sufferers

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends avoiding pets with fur and feathers. Fish and reptiles (snakes, turtles, lizards) may be an alternative with fewer allergens.

However, it’s important to consider every factor involved in owning a pet. For some alternative pets, dust, mold, algae, or other allergens may accumulate in their habitats if they are not cleaned properly and regularly. 

And there may be other lifestyle and husbandry requirements that are very different from owning a dog or cat. For example, some pet parents don’t enjoy feeding mice to their snake or buying live crickets to feed to their lizard.

Ways to Reduce Pet Allergens in the Home

Fortunately, pet owners with allergies have options for reducing their allergen exposure and allergy symptoms. It requires some work, but many consider that work well worth it to keep a beloved furkid in the home. 

Preventive measures center around reducing allergen counts in the home, and they include…

  • Bathe, brush, or groom your dog regularly. This helps remove shedding fur and dead skin cells more efficiently. And bathing removes pollen and other allergens your dog may pick up outside. Avoid overbathing, which can lead to dry skin or other skin issues for your pup. Once every 1-2 weeks is usually safe for bathing with a gentle shampoo made for dogs. You can also wipe off your dog’s fur (or at least their paws and belly) when they come inside after a walk or time outdoors.

  • Use a quality air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Depending on the size of your home, one air purifier may do the trick, or you may want several. The bedroom is the most important place to focus on air quality, since most people spend at least a third of their day there for sleep.

  • Clean floors and other surfaces regularly to physically remove pet allergens. Vacuum carpets at least weekly, and steam clean them at regular intervals. Throw rugs in the wash. Use a mop or static cleaner for hardwood or tile floors. Clean furniture, and dust shelves.

  • Get rid of, wash, or cover allergen-prone materials. If it’s realistic to do so, get rid of carpets and replace them with hardwood floors. Purchase furniture covers and window dressings that are easy to wash. 

  • Purchase washable dog beds and toys. Some dog beds have a convenient, removable cover that’s easy to throw in the wash. 

  • Keep the bedroom dog-free. As much as everyone loves snuggling with their furkid, pet owners with significant allergy symptoms may benefit from less dander in the room where they sleep.

  • After interacting with your dog, wash your hands, especially before you touch your eyes or face. Some allergy experts also suggest changing clothes after spending a lot of time with your pet.

  • Cover heating and cooling vents with a dense filtering material like cheesecloth, which can help prevent the spread of allergens in your home.

  • Talk to your own healthcare provider or allergist, for an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms and to see which treatments or preventive measures may help. Some people pursue immunotherapy to reduce their symptoms over the long-term, and others find that over-the-counter antihistamines are enough to keep their symptoms under control. 

With severe allergies, some people might not be able to keep their pets. This is usually a last resort, but if it’s necessary for the health of human family members, talk to friends and family who might be able to give your pup a loving home, rather than bringing your furkid to a shelter.

Living With Pets If You Have Allergies

No one likes allergies. Fortunately, there are many things dog lovers with allergies can do to reduce allergens in the home and minimize or eliminate their allergy symptoms.

Pet ownership also has clear health benefits, including reduced stress and decreased blood pressure and cholesterol. There’s even some evidence that growing up with pets can reduce the risk of allergies in children, if pet ownership occurs prior to development of a dog allergy.

For allergy sufferers who love dogs, it’s a matter of weighing the pros and cons. Some people have such severe allergy symptoms that owning a dog would endanger their health. For others, the inconvenience of a sniffly nose is well worth the bond with their favorite furkid.

Only you can decide what’s right for you and your family members—human and canine alike.


Better care,
Right when you need it

Book a visit