Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds and Tips for Living with Pet Allergies
Itchy, watery eyes. Runny noses and thunderous sneezing. Skin rashes, coughing, even shortness of breath. Anyone that has experienced pet allergies knows how terribly uncomfortable they can be. Some people–especially children–develop pet allergies later in life when a family pet has already earned an important place in the family. Others have long been aware of their allergies but still want to open their hearts and homes to a new dog. While pet allergies can be quite severe, there are solutions that can offset the need to rehome a beloved pet or that will keep allergies at bay so you can successfully and happily adopt the dog you desire.
Understanding what it is that you are really allergic to is important. A common misunderstanding is that these allergies stem directly from pets’ fur. The source of the allergen is actually a protein called Can F1 which is found in a dog’s dander (microscopic bits of shed skin), saliva, and other secretions. All dogs produce these things but some breeds simply produce less. Such breeds are commonly referred to as hypoallergenic even though they are not technically one hundred percent allergy free.
For many homes, the solution to pet allergies is as simple as adopting a hypoallergenic dog. If a member of your household is allergic to dogs but you still want to adopt, here are five of the top hypoallergenic dog breeds that you might consider:
Poodles are one of the most popular hypoallergenic breeds. They are very smart and have a knack for obedience. They do not shed much which keeps dander from straying, though their curly hair often requires professional grooming. Poodles come in standard, miniature and toy sizes. They do have a lot of energy and are sometimes prone to being skittish and predisposed to various health issues. For these reasons it is important that you research a reputable breeder.
The Bichon Frise is a smaller breed that is known for being fundamentally gentle and sweet. They’re popular lap dogs and will certainly alert you to any strange happenings around the house but are not aggressive. They can be difficult to train, are very vocal, and require regular grooming similar to poodles.
The Schnauzer also comes in three sizes–miniature, standard, and giant–and is known for their signature bearded look. Schnauzers require regular exercise and activity to keep them healthy and happy. It is important to socialize them as early as possible. They can be very loving, social animals if introduced to other pets, children, and strangers early on, but can become shy and nervous otherwise.
The Maltese is a smaller dog that has a surprising drive for play! They have lots of energy but are very affectionate with people and other pets. Similar to several other hypoallergenic breeds, the Maltese requires regular grooming to maintain a clean, matt-free coat. These dogs are prone to separation anxiety and are sometimes hard to house train.
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog is an athletic, training-responsive breed. These dogs are medium sized and full of playful energy. They must receive regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent destructive behaviors like chewing.
These are only five examples of hypoallergenic breeds. There are many more including Airedale Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Chinese Crested, Bedlington Terriers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Shih Tzu’s, and Yorkshire Terriers. There are also many “designer” mixed breeds like labradoodles and goldendoodles that can be hypoallergenic.
In addition to selecting a hypoallergenic dog, or if you already have a dog that you are allergic to, use these tips to create a healthier, allergy-conscious environment.
- Create pet-free zones. The bedroom is the most important place to start. Use dog gates or restrict your pet from entering these safe havens for allergy sufferers.
- Use HEPA filters. HEPA filters (high efficiency particulate air) are air filters that can greatly benefit allergy relief.
- Be diligent in your housework: vacuum frequently, change furnace filters, shampoo rugs, change human and pet bedding, wipe down walls where pets rub, dust, convert your rooms to hard-floors/eliminate carpeting, get less upholstered furniture, regularly wipe down all surfaces–even hard surfaces like counter tops. These things must be done regularly but will amount to a world of difference.
- Wash your hands and face whenever you make contact with a pet or pet’s belongings (toys, bedding, etc.).
- Speak with your doctor about any recommended over-the-counter or prescription medications. You can also discuss whether you may need allergy shots if your symptoms are truly severe.
For many people pet allergies are entirely manageable by making an educated decision in selecting the right dog to suit their home and by making the proper adjustments to their household to keep it as dander-free as possible. In cases of severe symptoms, be sure to visit an allergist to identify which specific allergen is triggering your symptoms. Unfortunately, pets can be wrongly blamed for severe symptoms when in reality they may only be one of several triggers. Also if you do decide you are interested in a hypoallergenic dog, don’t rush right to breeders – there are many hypoallergenic dogs of pure breed and mixed variety that are waiting for forever homes at shelters and rescues.