Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Characteristics of an Allergy Friendly Dog

Even though the differences between non-allergy friendly dogs and allergy friendly dogs may not be huge, advocates believe they may be significant enough to help reduce the severity or number of allergy attacks that people experience. Interestingly, the American Kennel Club® ( is on record as noting:

While no dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic, there are many breeds which the American Kennel Club (AKC®) suggests people with allergies consider. Most of these breeds have non-shedding coats, which produce less dander. It’s the dander not the hair which causes most pet allergies.”

As we discovered previously, another term for an allergy friendly dog is a hypoallergenic dog. The term ‘hypo’ is a Greek prefix, which depending on the context, means: below, beneath, deficient, diminished, less than, too little or under.

Despite what many websites imply, hypoallergenic dogs do produce protein allergens that have the potential to trigger allergy symptoms in those susceptible. Therefore, although usage of the term may be surrounded by confusion, another term which is sometimes used, non-allergenic dog, is clearly incorrect because all dogs produce allergens in their dander, skin secretions/oil glands, saliva, urine, blood and feces (See: Dog Allergies CausesAllergic to Dogs Causes).

Therefore, if we discount the notion of the existence of a non-allergenic dog, the question needing to be answered is, what traits contribute to the allergy friendliness of a dog?

Before outlining the characteristic of both non-allergy and allergy friendly dogs (as proposed by advocates of hypoallergenic dogs), it would be useful to list as a resume the key issues noted in Allergic to Dogs Causes, concerning possible dog factors associated with allergen dispersal.

  • Dog size
  • Dog self-grooming practices
  • Dog coat and undercoat
  • Dog shedding
  • Dog barking
  • Dog gender

Allergy Friendly Dogs

These tend to have shorter coats and the hair on these dogs is more like human hair, which means it will not shed as frequently as non-allergy friendly dogs. Less shedding helps minimize allergen dispersal because the allergens tend to remain trapped in the coat on the dog. The allergen level can then be reduced significantly through regular bathing and grooming of the animal.

Some breeds do not have an undercoat/second coat/winter coat and although this makes them less resilient to colder weather as a result of being unable to store their body heat effectively, this attribute is considered a positive one from the perspective of a dog allergy sufferer; it tends to mean less shedding (can be particularly problematic at certain times of the year) of allergen rich, dander laden material. Dogs with little or no undercoat can easily succumb to cold weather and it is for this reason that they are considered indoor pets and should not be kept outside for extended periods of time.

The downside of less shedding is that such dogs tend to retain their hair for longer. This means that their coat may need to be trimmed every few weeks in order to prevent it from growing too long. Conversely, some allergy friendly breeds are termed ‘hairless,’ and even though they have little or no body hair, they will typically have some hair on their paws and head.

Allergy friendly dogs tend not to salivate/drool/slobber as much as other breeds. Not only does this minimize the risk of saliva being spread around the home when the dog shakes its head or drools but it also means that it deposits less bacteria and protein allergens when it licks and cleans itself. Additionally, the urine from allergy friendly dogs may not affect as many people either.

Characteristics of an Allergy Friendly Dog

Non-Allergy Friendly Dogs

These dogs tend to shed a lot and their fur can be loose and dense. This provides an ideal mechanism for trapping and transporting potentially large volumes of dander.

Such dogs often have a double coat, meaning that they will have both an undercoat and a top or outer coat. Typically the undercoat is soft, dense and has a fur-like or downy quality whilst the top coat presents the visible hair appearance of the dog and is coarser in nature. The undercoat functions to help insulate the dog from harsh temperature conditions but unfortunately, from a dog allergy sufferer’s perspective, it tends to trap dander and various other allergens. Non-allergy friendly dogs tend to have thicker, denser undercoats when compared to allergy friendly dogs. This is problematic given that the undercoat is associated with the dog shedding frequently.

Non-allergy friendly dog breeds tend to salivate/drool/slobber more profusely than other breeds. This is a problem for someone who experiences an allergy to dogs given that dog saliva is a significant source of allergens. Another allergen source is urine, therefore larger dogs will tend to produce more of it and male dogs tend to disperse it more widely than females. Therefore, even though such dogs cannot control the volume of saliva or urine they produce and expel, dog allergy sufferers may have a difficult time when these dogs are present.

Do Hypoallergenic or Allergy Friendly Dogs Really Exist?

Based on considerable circumstantial and anecdotal evidence, proponents believe that certain breeds appear to be more allergy friendly than others. However, there is not a consensus of opinion at this present time due to the lack of scientific research on the topic and the complexity of the problem at hand e.g. significant variations in symptom response noted between allergy sufferers.

Advocates of such dogs consider them to have traits that make them better for people with dog allergies, although antagonists suggest that other factors may play a more important role e.g. allergy protection resulting from childhood exposure to dogs. Furthermore, those who believe that the notion of an hypoallergenic dog is largely based in myth, highlight a relatively recent paper by Vredegoor et al. 2012. This study found no difference between the amount of environmental exposure to dog allergens between hypo and non-hypoallergenic dogs (even though the hypoallergenic dogs in their test group were found to have naturally higher levels of the allergen Can f1 on their coats when compared to the non-hypoallergenic control group!) Though interesting, one must remain objective and wait for a greater body of research before arriving at a definitive conclusion.

To illustrate the importance of not rushing to judgement, in Do Allergies Result From Nature or Nurture? it was noted how studies can give rise to apparently contradictory results e.g. research suggesting that asthmatic bronchitis affected children growing up with pets such as dogs have an increased risk of being allergic to them in adulthood, whereas other studies have suggested that being introduced to pets at an early age at home or through continued exposure at an older age, results in individuals becoming less sensitive.

Even the Vredegoor et al. 2012 paper stated, “…the study was not designed to analyze reduced allergic symptoms in owners” and that the study was limited in scope. For example, it did not take into account factors such as the owners’ socioeconomic status, the nature of their cleaning habits etc. and with reference to other dog allergens (such as Can f2, Can f3 and Can f5), the report notes, “It cannot be excluded that differences exist in exposure in these allergens between the different breeds”. 

Therefore, at present the jury is still out…

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