You don't have to live without a canine companionship. While no dog is 100% hypoallergenic there are numerous breeds of dogs that shed very little hair and dander and therefore exude very few allergens.
How Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds Differ from other Dog Breeds
To understand why one breed is more hypoallergenic than another one must first understand a bit about what causes allergies in the first place. An allergic reaction begins when a threat is perceived by the immune system and it takes action to neutralize the threat.
Allergy suffers can react to numerous canine features such as saliva, dander (flaky dead skin cells) and even sebaceous gland secretions. They may even react to what their dog carries in their hair such as pollen, dust and dirt. Dander is somewhat sticky; it may float in the air and stick to walls, furniture and floors where your dog spends time. Dander is one of the main causes of triggering allergic reaction in those sensitive to dogs.
Hypoallergenic dogs are those dog breeds that naturally produce the fewest of the allergens discussed above. Hypoallergenic dogs shed very little or retain the dander. Dogs such as poodles have extremely curly hair and retain dander rather than shedding it; poodle varieties are all considered to be hypoallergenic.
Non-hypoallergenic dogs tend to be those that shed profusely. They are likely to have an undercoat which is essential to the dog for cold weather protection; for example Alaskan Malamutes have a very heavy undercoat that enables them to withstand the hard Arctic environment. But it is this heavy undercoat that makes them high dander producers and most likely impossible for an allergy sufferer to live with.
Many of the breeds considered to be non-hypoallergenic are known to salivate (slobber or drool, like wet mouth Saint Bernard dogs) heavily in comparison to other breeds. Canine saliva contains bacteria that many people are allergic to. Dog urine is also a problem for allergy suffers as it also contains specific bacterial agents that many people are allergic to.
Some of the most common features of hypoallergenic dog breeds are that they are single coated (no undercoat for cold weather protection), may be hairless, low or non-shedding, small statured dogs and those dog breeds that retain rather than shedding dander such as Poodles.
Short Coat Hypoallergenic Dogs
Short coats are one of the most important features for those looking for a hypoallergenic dog. Short haired dogs do not shed as frequently as longer haired dogs. Hairless breeds are also a good choice for allergy sufferers (even if they have hair on their paws and head they are considered hairless). While the hairless or short coat traits are great for the allergic person, it means that the dog is not prepared to cope with cold weather and may need a coat for winter outings.
Long Coat Hypoallergenic Dogs
There are some long coat dog breeds that are considered hypoallergenic. These dogs have hair that is very similar to human hair and as a result, they do not shed either as much or as frequently as non-hypoallergenic breeds. However, it is well advised to keep the coats these dogs from becoming too long; they will need a trim every few weeks to minimize allergens.
Saliva & Urine
The fact that salvia and urine are important factors in determining whether a dog is hypoallergenic at first seemed a bit strange to this author. However, digging deeper into the issue, it all began to make sense. It is not simply the bacteria laden saliva straight from the dog’s mouth that is the issue; it is also the fact that dogs wash themselves which leaves the bacteria on their hair where it can be contacted by an allergy sufferer.
Hypoallergenic breeds simply do not salivate as much as the other breeds so they do deposit fewer bacterial irritants. Further, it seems that the urine of hypoallergenic dogs contains fewer bacteria than non-hypoallergenic breeds and is not as apt to cause allergic reaction.
Where to Start
A few years ago the American Kennel Club came up with a list of those breeds they felt to be "reduced allergic reaction" breeds.
- Poodle: Tiny-large sizes available, tight curly coat.
- Bichon Frise: Small-medium sized, loose curly coat
- Havanese: Small size with wavy-curly coat, double coated, can be short haired.
- Miniature Schnauzer: Small, bearded with bushy eyebrows and muzzle, commonly owners maintain a trimmed coat.
- Kerry Blue Terrier: Medium sized, soft wavy hair
- Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier: Medium sized, wavy curly coat
- Maltese: Small size, straight long coat hanging to the ground if left untrimmed, no undercoat
- Portuguese Water Dog: Medium size, non-shed coat comes in various textures
- Italian Greyhound: Medium size, very fine short coat
- Basenji: Small size, smooth shiny coat, AKA “the barkless dog”
- Chinese Crested: Tiny size, hair only on tail, feet and head
- Chihuahua: Tiny size, short coat
- Mexican Hairless (Xoloitzcuintle): Toy, miniature and standard sizes (10-50 pound range), completely hairless
Reduced Allergic Reaction Dogs
There are a few breeds and crossbreeds that also are "reduced allergic reaction" dogs such as the Goldendoodle, a wonderful family dog that is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle.
One of the best ways to ascertain if one of these breeds will work for your home situation is to go online and find breeders in your area for the types of dogs you are interested in. Spend some time at their facility with the breed you are interested in and see if you are able to tolerate being around them before you commit to bringing one into your home.