If you are one of the many individuals who are allergic to dogs, even getting within a few feet of a dog can trigger horrible symptoms including coughing, wheezing and irritation of the eyes and skin. The severity of these symptoms can vary from one person to the next depending on how serious their allergies are and whether or not they have any underlying health problems such as asthma. However, having an allergy like this does not necessarily mean that you will never be able to enjoy the companionship of a canine companion.
There are a number of breeds of dogs for people with allergies, you just need to know which ones to look for!
Understanding what causes dog allergies
There is a common misconception that the symptoms of an allergic reaction to dogs are triggered by the animal’s hair or fur. This has led to the belief that the best dog breeds for allergy sufferers are those with very short hair or those who are not prone to shedding their hair. However, the truth is that the real problem for allergy sufferers is the dander – i.e. flakes of dead skin.
Some allergy sufferers also find that their symptoms can be triggered by dog saliva or urine. It is actually a very specific protein chain (KNF-1 or Can f1) that is found in dander, saliva and urine which triggers allergies.
Dander triggers allergic reactions because individuals who have allergies are known to have very over-active immune systems. That means that they often react to totally harmless substances in much the same way that they would to harmful bacteria or viruses. In the case of an allergy to dogs, the sufferer’s body treats dander like a harmful irritant and as a result they begin to sneeze, cough and get watery eyes as the body attempts to expel this unwanted allergen.
There are a number of very common medications which can be used to treat an allergy to dogs including most over the counter allergy relief products. Antihistamines can be used to block the effects of the chemicals which trigger your allergic reaction. Common over the counter brands include Claritin and Benadryl. Decongestants such as Sudafed can also be uses to help reduce the swelling and congestion in the nose and throat when the allergy flares up. In extreme cases, a doctor may also prescribe allergy shots or perhaps even steroids.
You may wonder why you have this inconvenient allergy, especially if nobody else in your family seems to have the same problem. However, allergies are all part of your genetics and certain people are just born with a predisposition for allergies. People with another allergy or who suffer from asthma are also more likely to be allergic to dogs.
What to look for in a hypo-allergenic dog
As discussed above, the main cause of dog allergies is dander rather than hair, so the types of dogs good for allergies are those who produce little to no dander. However, fur and/or hair can also play a role in triggering allergies. Those who suffer from dog allergies are also prone to being triggered by many airborne irritants such as dust and pollen both of which can collect on dog hair, thus triggering an allergic reaction. This means that it is best to look at dogs who have shorter hair as this will not trap as many of these contaminants as longer hair would.
Despite the claims of many breeders, there is no such thing as a completely hypo-allergenic dog. All dogs have the KNF-1 protein that causes an allergic reaction. It is simply a case of finding one with lower levels of the protein in order to minimize your symptoms. Some experts believe that when you have a dog with low KNF-1 levels, you are able to build up a tolerance to it over time in much the same way as a vaccine works.
However, they do warn that this is by no means a permanent solution and that the symptoms could make a sudden return even after having the dog for a fairly long time without any issues.
There are certain breeds of dogs for people with allergies, but it is important to remember that how one person reacts to an animal could be entirely different to how another allergy sufferer is affected. It is even possible for two dogs of the same breed to trigger different reactions in the same person. If you are thinking of getting a dog despite your allergies then you do need to spend some time with it to evaluate how well you will be able to cope with that particular animal before you make a long term commitment to inviting it into your home.
Keep in mind that not all dog breeds work well with children either. If your kid is the one with the allergies, consider one of the many dog breeds we have listed in our article about the best hypoallergenic dog breeds for kids.
Great dogs choices for allergy sufferers
So now that we have a brief overview of what to look for in a dog when choosing one that is less likely to trigger allergies, it is a good idea to look at some of the best breeds of dogs for people with allergies. It is important to remember that this is only a general guide and some allergy sufferers may not find these particular breeds compatible with them.
However, for the most part these breeds have proven to good dog breeds for allergy sufferers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does cover some of the most popular choices for allergy sufferers and there are dogs of all sizes represented!
One of the most important things in choosing dogs good for allergies is making sure that they produce very little dander as this is the biggest trigger for an allergic reaction. That is why Schnauzers are so popular among allergy sufferers – they are known for producing a much smaller volume of dander than any other breed.
With daily vacuuming of carpeted floors you will be able to eliminate the little dander that a Schnauzer does leave behind.
This is one breed of dog that you might never have heard of! Xoloitzcuintli is actually pronounced as ‘show-low-eats-queen-tlee’ which is quite the mouthful – no wonder people just call them Xolo for short! These may be odd looking little creatures, but they are one of the oldest breeds in the world and are fairly rare.
They are mostly hairless although some of them may have a little very short hair. This lack of hair not only makes grooming a breeze, but it also means very little dander and no buildup of other contaminants in the dog’s coat. These are one of the best dogs for people with allergies.
Portuguese Water Dogs
When it comes to hypo-allergenic dogs, there is one celebrity who most have heard of – Bo Obama, the first dog of America! President Obama was gifted the families pup after promising his children a dog, but struggling to find one compatible with his daughter’s allergies.
Portuguese Water Dogs have waterproof coats and webbed paws making them an ideal outdoor dog. Often allergy sufferers only find the symptoms triggered when in an enclosed space with a dog which means that having a dog that can live outside may solve the problem.
If this breed is your first choice, then you can read all about them in our article dedicatd to the Portugese Water Dog.
Samoyeds are beautiful dogs with a thick and fluffy coat. It is not one of the dog breeds that most allergy sufferers would consider because of all the hair! While it is true that the fluffy white hair will shed just as much as any other dog what makes the Samoyed good dogs for allergies is that they do not produce any dander.
They also do not have the protein chains and odors that are associated with most dogs making them perfect for those with allergies.
Kerry Blue Terrier
Sometime the Kerry Blue Terrier is better known as an Irish Blue Terrier. It features a single layer coat which grows all year round and does not shed.
This means that they require lots of regular grooming and clipping, but on the positive side they are pretty much free from dander making them very hypo-allergenic
If you are concerned about shedding hair triggering your allergies then you will certainly want to consider a poodle! They do not shed a great deal anyway, but the hair that does shed is actually caught in the wiry curls of a poodle’s fur where it remains until the dog is groomed.
This means there will be no loose dog hair around waiting to irritate your allergies. Most poodle owners also shave or clip the dogs which reduces the problem to almost nothing! Since they do not shed, poodles also give off very little dander.
American Hairless Terriers
The American Hairless Terrier is very similar in size and appearance to a rat terrier, but with the one big difference – no hair! Many studies have concluded that American Hairless Terriers are the best dogs for people with allergies.
There are very few people who are still triggered in their presence and even those suffering from the most severe allergies are often able to handle American Hairless Terriers with ease. Just be sure to apply sunscreen to your canine companion if you opt for this breed since they will have some delicate skin.
Dogs allergy sufferers should avoid
Just as there are a number of great dogs for people with allergies, there are also some breeds that are best avoided as they are well known to trigger allergic reaction thanks to excessive dander, a tendency to drool or near endless casting of hair everywhere they go. Some of these dogs which are better of avoided by allergy sufferers are listed below.
Saint Bernards & Bulldogs
In addition to dander, one of the other triggers for dog allergies is dog saliva. That means that you need to avoid any breed of dog which is prone to excessive drooling. Saint Bernard dogs are among the worst offenders in this area, which if you have ever watched the movie Beethoven you are sure to already know! Bulldogs are also very slobbery dogs so those are not great for allergy sufferers either!
In fact, it is wise not to let any breed of dog lick you if you have allergies. You should also soak all dog chews and toys in hot soapy water at least once every week to eliminate any allergy triggers that are lurking there.
There are a number of dog breeds out there who are particularly prone to dry skin which causes them to scratch more, thus producing excessive amounts of dander. One of the worst dog breeds for this is the German Shepard. Not only are these dogs prone to dry, itchy skin conditions, but they also shed a great deal of hair.
While not the main cause of dog allergies, hair can certainly trigger symptoms in some allergy sufferers. This means that German Shepards are not one of the dogs goof for allergies.
If you’d like to read more about smaller dog breeds, we have a great article on the top hypoallergenic dogs you can bring home to your family.
Additional steps to combat your allergies
It isn’t just about finding the right dog breeds for allergy sufferers. Once you have found the right dog there are a number of additional steps that you can take in order to make it even less likely that your new pet will trigger an allergic reaction. One of the keys to minimizing allergy attacks is keeping your home as clean as possible. Dust and other particles can wreak havoc on your allergies so you must eliminate it from your home if you can.
We have already discussed how long haired dogs can trap dust and other particles in their hair, but the same principle also applies to carpets and other soft furnishings. You will need to vacuum regularly, preferably using a vacuum cleaner that is equipped with a HEPA filter since a standard vacuum filter will not be able to catch all of the allergens and will simply redistribute them into the air.
If your allergies are very severe you may actually wish to get rid of your carpeting all together and use tile or hardwood on your floors instead. This is also going to help reduce the amount of cleaning that you need to do to eliminate dust.
You can also minimize the risk of your allergies acting up by restricting the areas of the house that your dog has access to. It shouldn’t be given free rein in your home otherwise any dander or hair will get into all areas of the home. You should be especially careful about allowing your dog to be in the bedroom since you are going to spend around a third of each day in your bedroom. It is recommended that you make it a dog free zone even if you have one of the dog breeds for allergy sufferers.
In conclusion, while having an allergy to dogs can have a huge impact on your life, it need not mean that you cannot own a dog. There are no guarantees that a particular breed of dog will be the one that does not trigger your allergies since allergy sufferers can react differently to different dogs from the same breed. However, there are certain qualities that can reduce the likelihood of an allergy attack. This will give you a great starting place in your search for a dog that is compatible with your allergies.
The best dogs for people with allergies are those who do not shed much and who produce very little dander which is the main trigger for an allergic reaction. Check out some of the breeds which are usually great options if you have allergies and then spend some time around these dogs to see if they trigger your symptoms. Finding the right dog is going to take time and it will mean shopping around a little. However, if you really want to add a dog to your family then it will be worth the extra effort to find one that doesn’t make you sick.