Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Nothing can truly describe the connection between dogs and humans. They’re known as a “man’s best friend” for a reason. Whether you like having a furry friend to accompany you in your everyday life, a hunting companion, or extra security, dogs serve many roles and can bring some true love to your life.
Unfortunately, some people are allergic to dogs, making canine companionship nearly impossible or at least highly inconvenient. The good news: some dogs are hypoallergenic. Before you make the choice between getting a dog or loading up on antihistamine medication, consider confirming your allergy with an at-home allergy testing kit. If you find that you do indeed have a dog allergy, a hypoallergenic dog breed might be right for you. Read below to learn more.
Your immune system is designed to identify and eliminate harmful substances and microbes, like viruses, bacteria, and fungi. A healthy immune system is actually highly adept at this process, but some people have a malfunctioning or over-sensitive immune system. For these people, the immune system identifies something normally harmless, like a type of food or pet dander, as a threat. In response, the immune system goes into overdrive, attacking healthy tissue and causing an allergic reaction.
While most people associate pet allergies with fur, the main allergen is actually a type of protein that is found in a pet’s saliva, urine, and skin. Most pet allergies are triggered by dander, or the dead skin cells that pets shed.
Dog allergens can easily accumulate anywhere. Fur can collect on furniture, and people can carry the allergens on their clothes. Simply petting or grooming a dog can disperse allergens into the air, where they can hang suspended for long periods.
The severity and specific symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary. Some people may experience a skin reaction, known as allergic dermatitis, when they come into physical contact with an allergen. Simply petting a dog or getting licked or scratched can result in eczema, itchy skin, or raised, red patches. Alternately, if you touch your eyes after petting a dog, you may get red, itchy eyes.
Most commonly, allergen particles land on the membranes of the eyes and nasal passages, causing intense inflammation. This can result in:
Some allergens can easily make their way into your lungs. Those with severe allergies or asthma may experience breathing problems, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
If you are especially sensitive, you may have a reaction from 15 to 30 minutes following exposure. If you are less sensitive or if you weren’t exposed to many allergens, you may not experience any symptoms for a few days.
It’s important to note that every dog produces allergens. Every dog has saliva, urine, and skin that sheds and creates dander. This means there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog, and no scientific evidence to date suggests that such a dog exists (the same goes for hypoallergenic cat breeds).
However, some dog breeds can produce fewer allergens than others, which may reduce the chance and severity of allergic reactions. The trick is to look at dog breeds that naturally shed less fur. Less shedding equates to less dander and fewer allergens knocked into the air.
These pups have tightly curled (but still plenty soft) coats that keep dander in place until they are brushed or otherwise groomed.
Less hair generally means less dander, especially with this small dog breed. Hairless Chinese Crested dogs aren’t completely hairless, but choosing individual dogs with less hair can be a big help to your allergies.
Similar to the Bichon Frise, Havanese dogs have a coat that is curly, wavy, and deceptively thick.
Poodles (and poodle mixes) are known for their curly coats that hang onto dead hair and dander. This also means that poodles typically require regular grooming, brushing, and haircuts.
Irish Water Spaniels feature no undercoat and sufficiently curly hair, all of which minimizes the potential for shedding. However, this dog breed requires regular brushing and a full grooming session every few months.
Basenjis have the cat-like habit of grooming themselves. This does mean more saliva, but it significantly reduces the amount of dander that finds itself on your furniture or in your air. While Basenjis do have short fur, they tend to shed less than other dogs with similar short coats.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you generally want to find a dog breed with curly, thick hair as opposed to fur.
Dog hair tends to grow longer and has a longer growth cycle. That naturally means less shedding. Curly, wavy hair traps any dander that does shed, preventing it from entering your home environment. As dog hair grows much like human hair, it will usually require more grooming and trims.
By comparison, dog fur is shorter and denser. The growth period for fur is considerably shorter, which leads to more shedding and thicker growth during the colder months. Most dogs with fur also have double coats, which comprise a coarser overcoat and a softer undercoat for temperature regulation.
Remember, no dog is completely allergen-free, even the “hypoallergenic” breeds. If you do suffer from allergies, the best mode of prevention is to stay away from dogs altogether. However, if that isn’t an option, you can take some steps to reduce your exposure to dog allergens and better manage potential allergic reactions.
Treatments for dog allergies also exist. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications, like antihistamines, corticosteroids, and decongestants. Immunotherapy may also be an option. It’s a procedure involving a series of shots that “train” your immune system to ignore pet dander.
As a dog owner, it can be difficult keeping pet allergens at bay in your home. If you suffer from a pet allergy, make sure you go for a hypoallergenic breed like the ones mentioned earlier — Poodle, Irish Water Spaniel, Bichon Frise, etc. Choosing a hypoallergenic dog breed will help mitigate excess amounts of dog dander and will keep your allergies in check. If you aren’t completely sure that you even have an allergy, getting an allergy test is the best place to start. Everlywell offers an at-home allergy test kit that can test your body’s reactivity to 40 different indoor and outdoor allergens, including dog and cat dander. The process of submitting your blood samples is quick and easy, and once you receive your results, you can take actionable steps with your healthcare provider.
1. Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats? Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. URL. Accessed February 3, 2022.
2. Pet allergy. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 3, 2022.
3. How To Tell If Your Dog Has Hair Or Fur, & Why It Matters. dogtime.com. URL. Accessed February 3, 2022.