A Guide to the Worst & Best Dogs For Allergies
In the U.S. out of the 50 million allergy sufferers, almost three out of 10 have allergies to dogs or cats. Allergies to cats are twice as common, but allergy symptoms to dogs are usually more severe. Although living with allergy symptoms is unpleasant, there are ways people can still bring a dog into their home. First, it’s important to understand how allergens work and to determine whether you have dog allergies before bringing Fido inside.
How Do Dog Allergies Work?
Dog hair isn’t what causes allergies, it’s the proteins in saliva, urine, and dander. Pet dander, or dead skin cells, disperse throughout your home every time your dog moves, shakes, rolls, or walks. When dogs go outside, they also bring in mold, pollen, and other allergens that become trapped in their coats.
Nearly 10 million people in the U.S. are allergic to their pets. People can develop allergic reactions to pet dander, urine, saliva, and hair, which causes our bodies to mistakenly see these proteins as a threat and develop antibodies against them.
Once someone is exposed to them again, it can illicit an allergic response, which causes the release of histamine, hence, sneezing and mucus begin to try and protect our bodies from the invading protein. Dog allergy symptoms can include symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose, asthma attacks, sneezing, and congestion, or even hives.
Some people can have an irritant response to dog hair, that is different than an allergic response. For these people, having a dog breed that sheds less would be beneficial.
Hypoallergenic Dogs Don’t Exist
Although some dog breeds shed less than others, no breed is truly hypoallergenic since allergic reactions are a result of proteins that all dogs produce. However, not all people that are allergic to dogs react to the same proteins. A better term for allergy-friendly dogs that are marketed as hypoallergenic would be shedding versus non-shedding.
Here’s a list of large non-shedding dogs that are considered the best dogs for allergies:
- Giant Schnauzer – the largest of the Schnauzer breeds, this is originally a German working breed.
- Standard Poodle – these dogs were originally bred to be water retrievers and they have a high maintenance dense and curly coat that needs frequent brushing and professional grooming every couple of months.
- Xoloitzcuintli - Mexican Hairless dog is a rare breed that doesn’t shed, is an excellent watch dog, and bonds strongly with their family.
- Portuguese Water Dog – this intelligent and friendly breed makes an excellent service dog.
- Basenji – these hunting dogs aren’t a large breed but they’re intelligent and curious, and barely shed.
- Afghan Hound – with all that hair you might think these dogs shed a ton, but with consistent brushing their coat remains almost dander-free since they lack an undercoat and shed minimally.
- Barbet – these French water dogs resemble a poodle, but they have hair instead of fur which doesn’t shed the way other breeds do.
- Irish Water Spaniel – although this breed needs frequent grooming, they don’t shed much and are considered good family dogs for allergies.
- Airedale Terrier – the wiry coats on these dogs mean they don’t shed much, but they do have a stubborn streak to them.
- Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – this Dutch breed was originally a gundog, and they are very intelligent and loyal dogs.
If you’re in the market for a smaller dog to add to the family, you also have good breeds to choose from. On the smaller side, the best dog breeds for allergies include Lhasa Apsos, Westies, Bichon Frises, Shih Tzus, Yorkies, Scottish Terriers, Havaneses and Malteses.
If you’re planning to add an allergy-friendly dog to a new family, know that children raised in a house with two or more pets in their first year of life are less likely to develop pet allergies later on. However, it may be better to steer away from some of the worst dog breeds for allergies, especially if you haven’t had a dog before.
The Worst Dog Breeds for Allergies
There are several factors that make some dog breeds worse for allergies than others, and it doesn’t just rely on the length of their hair. Whether they have an undercoat, their type of hair, how much they drool, and even their own allergies can affect the proteins they release that trigger a reaction.
That’s right, dogs have allergies too, and whether it’s to food or other triggers, many times the results affect their skin. When dogs develop allergy symptoms, they tend to scratch more, and their skin can become dried out and flake more than usual. When this happens, dog dander is released into the air, triggering an allergic response from allergy sufferers.
Here are some dog breeds that are most susceptible to developing their own allergies, thus exacerbating ours.
- German Shepherd – a wide range of food allergies is common; plus, they shed a ton.
- Golden Retriever – canine atopic dermatitis is common but can be managed by a vet diagnosis.
- Labrador – similar to the beloved Golden, these also suffer from common food allergies and atopic dermatitis.
- Boxer – commonly allergic to wheat in dog food, and easily develop rashes from weeds and trees.
- Cocker Spaniel – these dogs tend to have itchy ears and feet, mostly due to inhaling and treading on pollen.
- Saint Bernard – the excessive amount of drool this slobbery breed releases is a huge no-no to those allergic to dog saliva.
- Bulldog – similar to the above breed, these dogs are known for excessive drool that ends up all over their toys and your home.
- Basset Hound – this slobbery, moderate shedder can be a great companion, just not for those with allergies
- Corgi – this adorable little dog sheds a surprising amount, and because they are affectionate, you’ll most likely be receiving unwanted kisses that can trigger allergy symptoms.
- Akita – this heavy shedder will deposit large piles of hair throughout your home year-round, and if they’re not house trained, the urine containing the same allergy-inducing proteins, will be an extra trigger for allergies.
Other heavy shedding dog breeds to look out for include:
- American Eskimo
- Chow Chow
- Great Pyrenees
If you’re adamant about having a dog despite allergies, there are a few steps you can take to make your symptoms more manageable. Here are some ways you can still enjoy your floppy, furry bundle of love:
- Wash and vacuum dog beds frequently
- Minimize the amount of fabric surfaces you have, like carpets, rugs, and curtains. Dander can easily become trapped in these so it’s important to thoroughly clean them as well
- Give your pet frequent grooming sessions or baths (make sure their skin doesn’t dry out from over-washing!)
- Upgrade your air filters to MERV 11 or MERV 13 to help trap particles in your home and minimize pet hair
- Get your air ducts cleaned
Making sure your indoor air quality is of a high standard can help soothe more than just dog allergy symptoms. Breathing clean air inside can help limit your exposure to pollution, smoke, and other irritants. Plus, upgrading and changing an air filter is one of the simplest ways to improve the quality of air you breathe.