Allergies to dogs – is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic breed?
By Jordan Elizabeth
Allergic responses are caused by the immune system reacting to proteins.1 Dog-allergic people are reacting to the dander (“dandruff”, or skin flakes), as dander contains these offending proteins, or “allergens”.1 The major dog allergens are Can f 1 and Can f 2. 2,3 Both allergen types are produced in the salivary glands of the dog, and saliva, dander, and fur are their largest reservoirs.3 Can f 1 is the most predominant allergen, although different levels of each allergen can be produced between individual animals of the same breed and of different breeds.3
Marketing of certain dog breeds as “hypoallergenic” has become increasingly popular, due to the high prevalence of dog allergies among the human population.1,2,3,4,5 There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, easily accessible through a quick Google search, of allergy sufferers saying certain breeds do not cause allergies for them, however there is currently no scientific evidence to support these claims.1
The term “hypoallergenic” implies there are certain breeds which produce low (“hypo-”) levels of allergens (“-allergenic”), and therefore cause lesser allergic responses in humans.1,2,3,4,5 “Hypoallergenic” is usually used to describe dogs with a low-shedding coat, as the hair is not shed constantly as from regular coats, apparently leading to less dander being released alongside hairs into the environment.1 However, despite low-shedding dogs dropping hair in lower quantities and frequency, they still produce the exact same allergens as other dogs, and studies have shown no significant difference in detectable allergens in homes containing “hypoallergenic” dogs compared to those containing “non-hypoallergenic” dogs.5
There is no significant difference in allergen production in “hypoallergenic” dog breeds compared to “non-hypoallergenic” dog breeds.1,2,3,4,5 Therefore, there is unfortunately no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog, and this term should not be used to describe certain dogs or breeds.4 Allergy sufferers will have varying success with different individual dogs regardless of breed, “hypoallergenic” or not.
- Cook G. The hypoallergenic dog: Fact or fiction? Asthma Magazine [internet]. 2005 [cited 2020 Oct 6]; 10(2):17-19. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257490098_The_hypoallergenic_dog_Fact_or_fiction
- Butt A, Rashid D, Lockey RF. Do hypoallergenic cats and dogs exist? Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology: official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology [internet]. 2012 [cited 2020 Oct 6]; 108(2):74-6. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22289723/
- Morris DO. Human allergy to environmental pet danders: a public health perspective. Veterinary Dermatology [internet]. 2010 [cited 2020 Oct 6]; 21:441-9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20374569/
- Vredegoor DW, Willemse T, Chapman MD, Heederik DJJ, Krop EJM. Can f 1 levels in hair and homes of different dog breeds: lack of evidence to describe any dog breed as hypoallergenic. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology [internet]. 2012 [cited 2020 Oct 6]; 130(4):904-9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22728082/
- Nicholas CE, Wegienka GR, Havstad SL, Zoratti EM, Ownby DR, Johnson CC. Dog allergen levels in homes with hypoallergenic compared with nonhypoallergenic dogs. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy [internet]. 2011 [cited 2020 Oct 6]; 25(4):252-256. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680143/