The Truth About "Hypoallergenic" Pets

No, that expensive doodle mutt you just paid thousands for is not hypoallergenic. There is this pervasive myth that breeds such as Poodles, Poodle mixes, Portugese Water Dogs, and Airedale Terriers are considered hypoallergenic. Many breeders have capitalized on this myth by marketing their own dogs as “hypoallergenic.” The problem is, people then buy these dogs and cats from breeders instead of adopting from a shelter thinking that they are actually getting a hypoallergenic dog. 

Many people think if a dog doesn’t shed, it is less likely to cause allergies in people. However, the hair has nothing to do with it.

Human diseases associated with allergens include allergic asthma, which leads to difficulty breathing, allergic rhino-conjunctivitis leading to nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and itching of the nose or eyes and atopic dermatitis, leading to itchy skin. 

When someone is allergic to a dog, they are usually reacting to the proteins Can f 1 and Can f 2, produced in the salivary glands, not the skin! The tongue epithelial tissue produces the Can f 1 protein and Can f 2 is produced by the tongue and parotid salivary glands. Can f 1 is also a ubiquitous protein found in public areas, carpets and soft furnishings and is also present in households without dogs.

When someone is allergic to a cat, what actually causes their reaction is a protein (globulin) called Fel d 1, found in their salivary, sebaceous, and perianal glands which is transferred to the skin and fur by licking and grooming. While Fel d 1 is found in higher concentrations in households that have cats, it is a ubiquitous compound that is found in the environment everywhere.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website states that “there are no truly hypoallergenic breeds.”

One study looked at allergen levels in the homes of people with “hypoallergenic” breeds vs “nonhypoallergenic” breeds and found “there was no evidence for differential shedding of allergen by dogs grouped as hypoallergenic.” They also state that there is no published data to indicate that hypoallergenic dogs exist  (Nicholas et. al 2011).

If you say, but wait, I heard there is this breeder that sells their animals for a ton of money and they say they have these scientifically proven hypoallergenic dogs and cats, and they have a physician saying its true too … no… just read here, first page, its not true. 

How to live with a pet if you are allergic

Bathe the pet regularly- at least twice a week to diminish the allergen concentration. If you adopt an allergic dog, your dog will benefit from the frequent bathing anyway with prescription shampoo! This is shown to be more beneficial in dogs than cats. Get rid of your carpeting and soft furniture and clean your house regularly. 

Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, eradicate pet allergies entirely in 80% of patients completing the full course of treatment. They are administered weekly at first and then monthly over the course of about 3 years.

Morris DO. Human allergy to environmental pet danders: a public health perspective.” Vet Dermatol. 2010;21:441–9.

Lockey, Richard L. The Myth of Hypoallergenic Dogs (and cats). Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Vol 130, Number 4. August 2012.

Nicholas CE, Wegienka GR, Havstad SL, Zoratti EM, Ownby DR, Johnson CC. Dog allergen levels in homes with hypoallergenic compared with nonhypoallergenic dogs. Am J Rhinol Allergy 2011;25:252-6.

Butt A, Rashid D, Lockey RF. Do hypoallergenic cats and dogs exist? Ann Allergy

Asthma Immunol 2012;108:74-6.

Vredegoor DW, Willemse T, Chapman MD, Heederik DJJ, Krop EJM. Can f 1 levels in hair and homes of different dog breeds: lack of evidence to describe any dog breed as hypoallergenic. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2012;130:904-9.