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Home > Dogs > Is There a Truly Hypoallergenic Dog? What Science Has to Say

Is There a Truly Hypoallergenic Dog? What Science Has to Say

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Some dog breeds are advertised to be hypoallergenic. That raises the image of a dog that is perfectly safe for people with allergies. But do such dogs actually exist? Hypoallergenic technically means less allergenic, but less does not mean zero. In fact, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog. All dogs have the potential to set off someone’s allergies if a person is allergic. So, what makes a dog hypoallergenic? Do they actually help control people’s allergies? Here is what the science says.


Culprit Proteins

There is a big misconception that people are allergic to dogs’ fur or hair exclusively. Many people think the more a dog sheds, the more allergenic they are. But that is not true. People who are allergic to dogs (and cats) are actually allergic to a specific protein found throughout their bodies. This protein is often carried by shedding fur because it is found in high concentrations within dead skin and dander. There are several proteins made by dogs that can cause allergies, including Can f1, f2,f3 and f4.

Despite the protein being the actual culprit of pet allergies, many people still think that fur has everything to do with their coughing and sneezing. This has led many people to believe that non-shedding dogs are automatically hypoallergenic.

girl allergic to dog sneezing in white tissue near cheerful man holding pug
Image By: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Shedding vs. Non-Shedding Dogs

In many cases, dogs advertised to be hypoallergenic are dogs that do not shed much or that are hairless. However, even non-shedding dogs and hairless dogs can still produce allergens that can irritate people’s allergies. This has led some experts to say that the term hypoallergenic should be phased out since it is misleading. They think dogs should be categorized as shedding and non-shedding dogs rather than allergenic and hypoallergenic. It is important to note that just because a dog sheds less or has little hair, it does not mean that it will necessarily be better for your allergies than another dog because all dogs still produce dander, urine and saliva that all carry the Can f1 protein.

More Than Just Fur

The reason that hairless dogs can still cause allergies is that the proteins that evoke the unpleasant allergic reactions in people are found in a dog’s saliva, urine, dander, and feces. That means even a hairless dog can leave dead skin on a couch or bed that can cause allergies. Similarly, if you have a hypoallergenic dog that gives kisses, you could get a reaction from the saliva on its tongue. If you have a dog that has accidents in the house, it could also contribute to your allergies without any need for hair or fur to be present at all.

Can You Be Allergic to Hypoallergenic Dogs?

Yes. People can absolutely still be allergic to hypoallergenic dogs. After all of that being said, some hypoallergenic dog breeds can help with allergies, but no dog can be completely safe for people with pet allergies. If a person is the most sensitive to pet dander, then having dogs with less hair can help reduce the amount of pet dander in the air, which can keep allergen levels lower than with other dogs. However, you can still experience an allergic reaction if you come in contact with dead skin, urine, or saliva.

At the end of the day, everyone is different, and all dogs are different. Some people with allergies will react better to some dogs than others. This can be the result of some dogs simply having a higher degree of the offending proteins in their bodies than other dogs. Each person has a different allergenic threshold, and each dog produces a different amount of allergens.

Giant Schnauzer In the field
Image By: Elena Kutepova, Pixabay

So-Called Hypoallergenic Breeds

Despite the fact that there are no truly hypoallergenic dogs, many dog breeds are labeled as hypoallergenic. These are the most common dog breeds to be called hypoallergenic. Many of these breeds are described as such due to the type of hair that they have and the amount of shedding that they do.

  • Poodle
  • Schnauzer
  • Maltese
  • Goldendoodle
  • Chinese Crested
  • American Hairless Terrier
  • Yorkies

If you are in the market for one of these dogs and a breeder tries to tell you that these dogs will evoke no allergenic response in your household, be very wary. These claims are not true, and even hypoallergenic dogs can cause allergic reactions in certain people.


Final Thoughts

Again, it is important to note that the prefix hypo does not mean zero. It means less or low. That means that hypoallergenic dogs mean fewer allergens, not zero. The misconception comes down to breeders that unscrupulously advertise dogs as being 100% allergen-free. There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.

Featured Image Credit:, Shutterstock

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