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Hypoallergenic Dogs and Dog Allergies

Updated on October 7, 2011

non shedding dog breeds

If you’re a dog lover who suffers from dog allergies, you’ll probably be a lot happier with hypoallergenic dogs. There are numerous hypoallergenic dog breeds from which to choose, so it’s not like you’ll be stuck with just one breed. There are miniature breeds, small dog breeds, medium-size breeds, and large dog breeds that are usually considered to be hypoallergenic dogs. There are also some popular crossbreeds that are included in the list of hypoallergenic dogs. Choosing a hypoallergenic dog might be a big relief for overall allergy symptoms, but it might not be the answer to your specific dog allergy.

What is a hypoallergenic dog?

Generally speaking, hypoallergenic dogs are non shedding dog breeds. Even though dog hair isn’t the chief trigger to dog allergies, hair and fur often compound the problem. Before you get too excited, however, you need to realize that anything with hair is going to shed some, and that includes humans. For example, I have long hair, and I reared three daughters with long hair. When all three were still living at home, I was always finding hair, sometimes in the strangest places. At least the stray hairs were colorful. I have dark brown hair, one daughter has dark auburn hair, one has blond hair, and one has light red hair. Think about how much human hair you find in the sink and in the shower.

The average human head contains around 100,000 hairs or so. Does that sound like a lot to you? I read that the average dog has around 15,000 hairs…PER SQUARE INCH! That means that just ten square inches of dog has 50% more hairs than an entire human head. And if math “ain’t your thang,” ten square inches would be equal to a strip two inches wide and five inches long. Obviously, even miniature dog breeds are larger than the area mentioned, and medium-size breeds and large dog breeds would have WAY more hair than humans have.

I love dogs, especially large dog breeds. I have two Great Danes, and Danes are NOT hypoallergenic dogs. Never could they be honestly included in a list of hypoallergenic dogs or non shedding dog breeds. My enormous boys shed year round, with heavier shedding in the spring and fall. It’s a good thing I don’t have pet allergies. Take a look at the Dane hair in the photo below. This was just an accumulation from a couple of days!

My dogs are definitely NOT non shedding dogs!
My dogs are definitely NOT non shedding dogs!

Dog allergies

What causes dog allergies? Obviously, exposure to dogs causes dog allergies. Actually, you don’t even have to have direct contact with a dog to trigger a dog allergy. And while some people’s dog allergies might be triggered by dog hair, largely because it’s a great hiding place for other allergens, most dog allergy sufferers are affected even more by dog dander. Dog dander is dead skin cells that are constantly being sloughed off, and they can get practically anywhere. In fact, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health, every home in the Unites States contains pet dander and other pet allergens – even homes that don’t have pets! How? Americans love their pooches, and dogs can be found just about everywhere. Dog allergens and other pet allergens can be carried by the wind, on human clothing, and on humans themselves.

How much dog dander and other dog allergens do you think these big guys produce?
How much dog dander and other dog allergens do you think these big guys produce?

Dog dander and dog hair: the relationship

All canines shed – even hairless dog breeds. Dander on dogs is like dandruff on humans. When a dog sheds hair, bits of dander are often attached to the hair shafts. Also, since dogs habitually lick themselves, traces of saliva are also frequently attached to the shed hairs. Dog hair might also contain traces of urine. When a dog sheds, all these proteins are released into the environment, along with the hair.

Other dog allergens

Okay, so you know about dog hair and dog dander, but they aren’t the only culprits that cause dog allergies. Practically any “dog juice” can contain an allergen and trigger a dog allergy, and that includes urine, albumin, and doggie drool. Proteins in these canine substances are generally harmless to humans with normal immune systems. For those with hypersensitive immune systems, however, the dog proteins are seen as dangerous invaders, in the same way as harmful viruses and bacteria. When such individuals are exposed to dog allergens, their bodies react in much the same way as they would with exposure to diseases.

Dog allergy symptoms

Dog allergy symptoms are similar to those caused by other allergens. They can include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, head congestion, itchy nose and eyes, a runny nose, and red eyes that might water and itch. Skin rashes can also occur, and people with severe dog allergies can even get hives when exposed to pet allergens. For those with asthma and other breathing problems, an allergic reaction to dog allergens can be especially dangerous.

Dog allergy symptoms are like symptoms from other kinds of allergies.
Dog allergy symptoms are like symptoms from other kinds of allergies.

Dog allergies treatment

Dog allergies treatment usually involves drugs – both over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications. Some over-the-counter drugs often used with dog allergies are decongestants and antihistamines, including Benadryl, Sudafed, and Allegra. Nasal sprays might also be effective as a dog allergies treatment. In some cases, dog allergy sufferers are given steroids or allergy shots.

There are also several dog allergies treatment methods you can do on your own, without drugs. These include dusting, vacuuming, and mopping often, and by using a HEPA filter. It’s also a good idea to get rid of places where dander and other allergens can hide, like drapes, curtains, rugs, and carpets.

If you have dog allergies yet you have a dog in your home, there are other dog allergies treatment options that might help. Some studies indicate that frequently bathing your dog might help control allergens, along with regular brushing. If you brush your dog inside, you’re just going to stir up the allergens, so it’s best to do this chore outdoors.

Several dog allergies treatment options involve cleaning.
Several dog allergies treatment options involve cleaning.

Hypoallergenic dog breeds

Finally, I’m returning to the topic of hypoallergenic dogs. It’s important to note here that while some allergy sufferers have fewer symptoms with hypoallergenic dog breeds, for others, it seems to have no impact. In fact, some doctors believe that some people are allergic to specific dogs, and that the breed isn’t usually a factor in such cases.

Instead of calling them hypoallergenic dog breeds, it’s actually more accurate to describe these canines as non shedding dog breeds. In all honesty, however, even that’s somewhat of a misnomer. Remember – all dog breeds shed some. A truly accurate term would be less shedding dog breeds – not non shedding dog breeds.

Poodles are often considered to be hypoallergenic dogs.
Poodles are often considered to be hypoallergenic dogs.

List of hypoallergenic dogs and non shedding dog breeds (so-called)

Airedale terrier

American hairless terrier

Bichon Frise


Chinese crested


Havanese dogs

Irish water spaniel

Kerry blue terrier


Mexican hairless (Xoloitzcuintle)

Poodles (all sizes)

Portuguese water dog



Soft-coated wheaten terrier

Spanish water dog

West Highland white terrier

Wirehaired fox terrier

Yorkshire terrier

NOTE: You’ll usually see the Maltese on a list of hypoallergenic dogs, but I didn’t include this charming little canine. My family has owned several Maltese, and they all shed profusely! Fine white hair would be all over our homes. That being said, it could be that they have low allergens, but they’re certainly not low shedders.


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