Do Hypoallergenic Pet Breeds Exist?

Posted 11.15.12 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

Group of different dog breeds
When it comes to allergies, many Neocate families have to deal with environmental allergies as well as food allergies. Even among folks who don’t have food allergies, environmental allergies are pretty common. In fact, as many as 1 in 5 Americans are allergic to dogs! But have you ever wondered whether any of the breeds of dog that are labeled as “hypoallergenic” really are? Read on to learn more!

Pet Allergen

Most of us guess that a hairless pet, such as the comical Chinese crested dog or the Sphynx cat, would be a safe bet for people with allergies. This is because we naturally figure that people who are allergic to pets are reacting to a pet’s hair, but we would be wrong. As with all true allergies, a pet allergy is really a protein allergy. The allergy is actually to the protein in pets’ skin, or dander. Dander is those tiny scales of skin cells that pets shed naturally. So if hairless breeds also shed skin cells, are there really any breeds of pet that are truly hypoallergenic?

New Research

A study that was published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reviewed a lot of interesting information related to dog breeds. For instance, some people with pet allergies say that certain breeds trigger their allergic symptoms less or more than other breeds. Breeders took to calling these dogs “hypoallergenic,” often claiming that they shed less than other breeds. Of note, where Neocate formulas have to undergo clinical trials to support the hypoallergenic claim, dog breeds do not have to undergo similar research!

The authors begin their article by explaining that very little research has been done to date into hypoallergenic dog breeds, with conflicting results. Even within one breed, some dogs produce much higher amounts of allergens than other dogs. And the main reason the scientists conducted this research was that no evidence for any dog breed being hypoallergenic had ever been reported.

The researchers compared the levels of a major dog allergen in the hair and coat of both normal dog breeds (like Labrador retrievers) and breeds marketed as hypoallergenic, including Labradoodles and Poodles. They also looked at the levels of the allergen in the homes of the same dogs, both in settled dust and floating in the air.

The Results

Surprisingly, the researchers actually found the allergen levels were much higher in the hair and coats of the hypoallergenic breeds! Interestingly, they found bigger differences between dogs of the same breed than when they compared one breed to another. When they looked at settled dust, the levels of allergens from Labradoodles were lower than other breeds. However, when they looked at allergen levels in the air, there was no difference between breeds. This is probably the most meaningful result since allergen levels in the air we breathe matter more than levels in the dust on the floor or within dogs’ fur. You can find the full results and complete study here.

The researchers conclude that “No evidence was found for a reduced production of allergen by hypoallergenic dogs.” They also found no evidence of lower allergens in the coats or the home. This supports the position the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) has taken that there is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic pet breed. AAAAI suggests that some allergic folks may do better with one breed over another, and provides some tips in this helpful fact sheet about pet allergies.

Do you or any members of your family have pet allergies that seem better around some pet breeds than others?

- Rob



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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.