Hypoallergenic Dogs

The phrase hypoallergenic dogs is bandied about a lot – especially by people trying to sell puppies and the media. But what does it actually mean?
If something, such as a pet, is hypoallergenic does it mean that it will not cause allergies? Well, no, not quite.

The official definition of hypoallergenic is "having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction".

(By the way, if you arrived on this page because your dog has allergies, you are in the wrong place! Follow this link to find out all about Dogs with Allergies)

Amazingly, 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

One in five of these - 10 million people - are pet allergy sufferers.

Most people think that pet allergy sufferers are allergic to animal hair, but that's not true. What they are actually allergic to are proteins - or allergens. These are secreted by the animal's oil glands and then shed with the dander, which is dead skin cells. These proteins are also found in dog saliva and urine.

The good news for dog lovers is that more people are allergic to cats!

It IS possible for pet allergy sufferers to enjoy living with a dog without spending all of their time sneezing, wheezing, itching or breaking out in rashes. Millions of people are proving the case - including our family.

There are some better dog breeds for allergy sufferers. However, you DO have to put in extra time to ensure that you pick the right dog and maybe make a few adjustments to your home as well.

Firstly, choose a non shedding and hypo-allergenic dog breed.

Let’s clear up a couple of points right away -

  • No dog is totally non shedding

  • No dog is totally hypoallergenic

People's pet allergies vary greatly. Pet allergy sufferers may react differently to different breeds as well as individual dogs within that breed.

All dogs - even so-called “hairless” dogs - have hair, dander, saliva and urine. Therefore all dogs can cause allergic reactions. But not all dogs do.

Some hypoallergenic dog breeds do not affect pet allergy sufferers as much because of the type of hair or the amount of hair that they shed.

All Schnauzers and most Schnoodles are considered to be non shedding and hypoallergenic dogs.

Some people with pet allergies find that they have very little or no allergic reaction to a Schnauzer or other non shedding dog breed. As a Miniature Schnauzer owner living with an allergy sufferer, I know this is true in our case.

Schnauzers have a double coat. The outer coat is hard and wiry, the undercoat softer and close to the skin.

This type of coat sheds only when the dog is left ungroomed for several months. Hypoallergenic dogs virtually do not molt. (You might find the occasional dog hair around the house). Their coats do not trap dander like the heavy undercoated dogs do.

Non shedding puppies are a popular choice for people with allergies. If you are thinking of getting one, try and spend some time alone with the pup at the breeder’s to determine what - if any - reaction you have. Allergic symptoms do not always happen immediately - sometimes there can be a couple of days’ delay.

Every pet allergy sufferer can tolerate a certain amount of allergens. If that person is just below his tolerance, any additional allergen will push him over the edge, triggering a reaction.

So, if you reduce the allergen load in the home, you'll be much more successful when you bring a non shedding (and hypoallergenic) dog home. A couple of very successful ways of reducing the allergen load inside the house are to -

  • get a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air - a type of air filter that removes 99.97% of all particles) air cleaner in the bedroom and/or main living room.

  • use a HEPA vacuum cleaner

Both of these will dramatically improve the quality of the air you breathe in your home.

Of course, the only sure-fire way to GUARANTEE no allergic reaction is not to have a dog!

But if you - like us –are determined to go ahead and share your home with the best, most loyal and devoted friend you’ll ever have, then you must pick a hypoallergenic breed.

Of course, we all love Schnauzers and know that they are the best dogs..... But we understand you MIGHT want to look at other breeds before you decide to get a Schnauzer!

While the UK and American Kennel Clubs do not make any claims about hypoallergenic dogs or breeds, they both publish details of "breeds that generally do well with people with allergies."

Here is the full List of Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds.

Finally, there's a mind-boggling array of anti-allergy products for you and your pets. In the next month we're adding an easy-to-follow guide to anti-allergy products for dog owners to this website.

We’re also including an explanation of how they work and how they may benefit the allergy sufferer.

Linda and Max the Schnauzer

Good Luck! I hope you're as happy and sneeze-free as we are with Max.

© Copyright 2008 Linda Whitwam, journalist, photographer and assistant to Max

copyright Linda Whitwam

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