Dogs give us laughter, joy, and beautiful memories, but they can also give us allergic diseases like hay fever, dermatitis, or asthma. Approximately 36.5% of US households have at least 1 dog, and up to 15% of dog owners develop allergies to their dogs. This leaves many pet owners pondering, what are the best dogs for people with dog allergies? To answer this question, we have compiled a list of only the best hypoallergenic dogs. Along with this list, you will find out what makes these dogs hypoallergenic and what can help you if you begin to develop allergies to your dog. However, before we go over this it can be helpful to know what causes humans to have allergic reactions to dogs in the first place.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies are caused by an immune system which is hypersensitive to outside substances which are basically harmless. In essence, cells in your immune system encounter a substance in your body, determine that it is a harmful pathogen, and then initiate an inflammatory response in order to “protect” you and kill the substance. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is known as an allergen.
These allergens cause an allergic response. To put it in technical terms, an allergic response occurs when your immune system produces immunoglobulin E (also known as IgE) and histamines. This is also known as IgE reactivity. A serious allergen would be described as having “greater IgE reactivity”. An allergic response may include any of the following symptoms.
Common Allergic Reaction
- Eye and nasal cavity irritation
- Rashes or itchiness all over the body
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
- Congestion in the sinuses (runny nose)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the face
- Serious swelling of the tongue or throat (in anaphylaxis)
- Low blood pressure (in anaphylaxis)
- Anaphylactic shock or death
Many people have a consistent allergic response to the same allergen and suffer from a chronic allergy. This is usually hereditary and is generally a condition that a person is born with. For example, according to a 2004 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, if both parents have a dog allergy, then the chances that one of their children will have one is up to 80%. Fortunately, there are hypoallergenic dogs for people with dog allergies.
What Does It Mean When a Dog is Hypoallergenic?
Dogs can cause allergic responses in certain people. However, there is a common misconception that the dog’s hair is the allergen. In fact, it is a group of proteins in the dog’s skin (or dander) and saliva that causes the allergic reaction.
Researchers and clinicians refer to these allergens as canine familiaris allergen (or Can f). For example, Can f 1 and Can f 2 are both lipocalin proteins that are produced by tongue and parotid glands. That means the allergen is spread via your dog licking its own hair.
Other common allergens include Can f 3, which is actually a protein found in dog serum known as albumin, and Can f 5, which is known as prostatic kallikrein and is found in the dander and urine of dogs.
Furthermore, the areas in your home with the highest concentration of these various Can f allergens include:
- Bedding – This is essentially anywhere that dogs lay, sleep, or lick themselves.
- Upholstered furniture – The allergens found in dogs’ saliva and dander will become attached to any fabric.
- Carpet – Long fibers like the ones found in carpeting can act as natural reservoirs for dog dander and saliva.
Hypoallergenic Dogs Shed Less
As we can see, dogs spread these allergens by licking themselves and then shedding that hair or dander. Furthermore, a landmark study from 1988 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology demonstrated that every dog produces various Can f allergens.
There is some evidence that certain breeds produce less of these allergens. For example, a 2005 study in the publication Allergy demonstrates that Labradors, on average, produce less Can f 1. However, ongoing research supports the initial conclusion that every dog produces these allergens, although in varying degrees.
So if all dogs produce Can f allergens, what does it mean to have a dog that is hypoallergenic? Various studies have shown that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog. However, there are dogs better suited for people with dog allergies.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), hypoallergenic dogs are breeds that shed minimally or not at all. Some may even be entirely hairless and will only shed small amounts of dander. The less hair and dander the dog sheds the more hypoallergenic the breed is for people with allergies.
21 Hypoallergenic Dogs For People With Allergies
All of these dogs are considered hypoallergenic. Each one can make a great dog for people with allergies. Remember though, like all dogs, they produce Can f allergens, but they shed so little fur and dander that these allergens do not accumulate all over the home. Especially if you are proactive with preventable measures to keep hair and dander to a minimum.
Of all the various dog breeds alive today, the terrier breed has multiple variations that are considered hypoallergenic. The AKC describes all terriers as being “feisty and energetic” as they were bred for hunting and ratting (vermin control). This makes them excellent watchdogs, but they also have the capacity to dig, bark, and sniff around endlessly.
Hypoallergenic Dogs (Terriers):
This terrier breed boasts the nickname title “The King of Terriers” because it is the largest of the terrier breeds. They are large dogs weighing in between 50 to 70 pounds.
As the name states these small terriers, originally from Louisiana, can be hairless, but there are versions with short shiny coats as well. Both versions are hypoallergenic.
This small silky haired terrier was developed around Sydney in the 19th century. It is a cross of three breeds which are the Yorkshire, the Australian Terrier, and with Skye Terrier.
This is a midsize English terrier. They sport a coat which can resemble sheep’s wool.
This is a midsize terrier with an “otter shaped” head. They were originally a country breed but adapt well in rural and city areas.
This breed sports the nickname “American Gentlemen” probably because their coat can resemble a tuxedo. These terriers grow to the height of 15-17 inches and weigh no more than 25 pounds.
This terrier breed was originally bred to hunt small prey like foxes. They are small dogs with thick wiry coats. They love to be outside and dig.
These are fun dogs who enjoy being independent but also make confident companions. Their high spirits earn them the nickname “The DieHard”. This is a staple of Britain’s terrier breeds.
This terrier breed is the “Holy Dog of Tibet” which has a long association with Buddhists monasteries. They have long silky hair, resembling their smaller cousin, the Lhasa Apso.
West Highland White
You can refer to them as “Westies” for short. This little hunter is probably the most popular breed of terrier. They grow to about 10 inches in height and sport a thick all-white coat.
These terriers are famous for their long silky coats which resemble human hair and can reach the ground. These short dogs (8-9 inches) were originally developed as ratters to help catch vermin in mines and mills.
Hypoallergenic Dogs (Non-Terriers):
Portuguese water dog
President Obama famously had one named “Bo” because of his daughter Malia’s allergies. It may be obvious from the name of the breed that they are excellent swimmers that love being outdoors.
These are dogs are toy size. They are completely covered in white silky soft hair that keeps growing to the ground unless you groom it.
This is a small, friendly, and loving breed that is particularly good with children. However, they tend to suffer from separation anxiety and do not always adjust well to being in a kennel.
These are related to the Bichon Frise and are also companion dogs that are especially loving, affectionate, and attached to their owners.
These odorless dogs are one of the most popular breeds on the planet and come in three sizes: miniature, standard, and toy. Furthermore, crossbreeds like the Labradoodle (Labrador plus poodle) are also excellent for owners with dog allergies.
The AKC initially classified this German breed as a terrier, but changed the classification in 1945 due to their rich and storied history. They were bred as ratters, watchdogs, and hunters.
Maltese Shih Tzu
This is an ancient breed that was originally bred for Chinese royalty. Today, we especially prize them for being good with kids.
This breed was created in Belgium 200 years ago and is essentially a mix of a terrier, Pug, and English Spaniel. They are excellent watchdogs and supremely intelligent.
This is a very unique-looking dog. It has a coat of lengthy dreadlocks from head to toe! This Hungarian breed was created for herding livestock and are known for being loving with family but wary of strangers.
Pronounced “show-low-eetz-kweent-lee”, this hairless dog is an ancient breed that was created by the Aztecs to serve as a guide and prophet to the underworld. Nowadays, we prize them for their calm and alert demeanors.
Additionally, allergies can be unpredictable. They can come and go at random throughout your life with no warning or reasoning. You may not be allergic to dogs your whole life and then all the sudden you can develop dog allergies. So what can you do to stop dog allergies if you begin to develop any?
How to Reduce Your Dog Allergies?
Allergies can increase or decrease in a person based on a number of factors. Consequently, if you have a hypoallergenic dog and are still suffering from an allergic reaction, you may take the following precautions to help stop your allergies:
- Keep the dog out of the bedroom, especially for anyone who has asthma.
- Close the air ducts in the bedroom.
- Always use an air cleaner or HEPA filter. Be sure to service it or replace it regularly.
- Never allow the dog on furniture that has upholstery.
- Vacuum the house and carpets regularly (including any fabrics the dog may have laid on or touched).
- Wash the dog regularly (no more than once a week), but be sure to use shampoo and not regular soap so as not to dry their skin and cause an increase in dander.
- Regularly clean your home and not allow dust to accumulate.
- Take an over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication like fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin), or diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
These various precautions can help you decrease your allergic response to Can f allergens.