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True or False?

Hypoallergenic Hype

Debunking the Myth of Allergy-Free Pets

Are Hypoallergenic Pets Too Good to Be True?

"Hypoallergenic" pets – magical creatures designed to deliver all the cuddles without the sniffles. But is this promise too good to be true?

Hypoallergenic Poodles and a Hospital Trip

I was five years old when I had my life-threatening asthma attack on Christmas Eve, brought on by two "hypoallergenic" poodles and the family Christmas tree. This asthma attack was different; I was barrel-chested, in and out of consciousness, and not even the doctors were sure if I was going to make it. Having an asthma attack was not a new occurrence for me; I had had many by the time this attack had happened. After all, I lived in a house with two "hypoallergenic" poodles. The house was always clean, and so were the poodles. I wasn't allowed to hug them or pick them up (I did anyway!), but I could have them on my lap with a blanket, and I had to wash my hands and face right after. It didn't help; my asthma was so out of control that by the time I climbed to the last step of the second story stairs in my grandmother's house, I had to reach for my inhaler. How could two "hypoallergenic" dogs affect my health so much? They don't shed as much as other dogs. And they only have hair instead of fur. What is the truth? Are hypoallergenic pets real, or is it an excellent marketing term to sell more pets?

The #1 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

And the winner is: The poodle! The poodle is still considered the number one best hypoallergenic dog due to less shedding and curly, dense hair. Surprised?

Hypoallergenic dog breeds and their grooming requirements

Dog breeds often mentioned as low-shedding or potentially easier to live with for allergy sufferers.

Small Dogs:

  • Bichon Frise: White, fluffy coat requires regular grooming.
  • Maltese: Long, silky hair also needs consistent grooming.
  • Shih Tzu: Long, flowing hair needs professional grooming.
  • Yorkshire Terrier: Long, silky hair requires regular brushing and trimming.
  • Chinese Crested: Hairless variety minimizes shedding, but powderpuff variety has hair requiring grooming.

Medium Dogs:

  • Poodle: Standard, miniature, or toy poodles have curly, non-shedding coats needs professional grooming.
  • Schnauzer: Giant, standard, or miniature schnauzers have wiry coats requiring regular brushing and clipping.
  • Portuguese Water Dog: Thick, curly coat needs professional grooming.
  • Kerry Blue Terrier: Hypoallergenic coat varies; some shed minimally, others more.
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier: Soft, coat sheds seasonally and needs regular brushing.

Large Dogs:

  • Irish Water Spaniel: Curly, oily coat sheds minimally but requires consistent brushing.
  • Lagotto Romagnolo: Dense, curly coat sheds minimally but needs regular brushing.
  • Giant Schnauzer: Wiry coat requires regular brushing and clipping.
  • Afghan Hound: Long, silky coat needs professional grooming but sheds minimally.
  • Bedlington Terrier: Wooly coat sheds minimally but needs regular brushing and trimming

(Hint: It's Not the Fur)

Dander Danger: What Really Triggers Dog Allergies

While dander often gets the blame, dog allergens are also present in their saliva, urine, and even blood.

Pet dander is made up of tiny flakes of dead skin shed by dogs (and other animals with fur or feathers). It's microscopic, around 1-10 micrometers in size, making it easily airborne and difficult to see. Dog saliva, urine, and even blood contain an allergen protein, which can also trigger allergic or asthmatic attacks in some individuals.

There are seven named dog component allergens identified, so having a truly hypoallergenic pet is highly unlikely. A significant percentage of the population is mainly allergic to the dog allergen Can f 1.

Dog allergen levels compared between hypoallergenic and non-hypoallergenic dogs

"There was no evidence for differential shedding of allergen by dogs grouped as hypoallergenic. Clinicians should advise patients that they cannot rely on breeds deemed to be “hypoallergenic” to in fact disperse less allergen in their environment."1

The Cat Hair Conspiracy

We all think of the Sphynx cat as the safest bet for those of us who have pet allergies. Hair length or not even having hair still plays significant role in the production of Fel d 1.

Fel d 1 is the major cat allergen to which up to 96% of all patients react. So, while hairless cats might feel safer, they still produce allergens through saliva, dander, and urine. These allergens, such as the saliva from your cat, can become airborne, where they are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. Hair is not the problem.

The #1 Best Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds


  • Siberian Forest Cat: Known for surprisingly low shedding despite thick fur, requires regular grooming.
  • Balinese: Long haired Siamese variant with moderate shedding, needs regular brushing.
  • Devon Rex: Unique curly coat with minimal shedding, may require occasional baths.
  • Cornish Rex: Similar to Devon Rex with wavy coat and minimal shedding, needs regular grooming.


  • Sphynx: Requires regular skin fold cleaning.

Individual variations in allergy severity and triggers

While we've established that dander, saliva, and urine are the true culprits behind pet allergies, the picture gets even more complex when we consider individual variations. It's not just a "sneeze or no sneeze" scenario; a whole rollercoaster of severity and specific triggers awaits allergy sufferers.

  • Allergen Sensitivity: Our immune systems react differently to allergens. Some individuals have hypersensitivity, meaning their immune responses are stronger, leading to more severe reactions.
  • Trigger Specificity: Not everyone reacts to the same proteins within dander, saliva, or urine. Specific proteins within these substances act as individual triggers, leading to personalized reaction profiles.
  • Exposure Levels: The amount of allergen exposure plays a big role. Frequent pet interaction, poor air quality, and lack of management strategies can amplify reactions for even "mildly" allergic individuals

Truly hypoallergenic pets don't exist

Pet allergies don't have to stand in the way of furry friendship! While there's no such thing as a perfectly hypoallergenic pet, there are steps you can take to manage allergies and welcome a companion into your life.

Want to adopt a "hypoallergenic" cat or dog?

If you still feel like a "hypoallergenic" pet might be right for you. There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

Don't rush it. Do your research. What pet would fit your lifestyle? How would the possible allergic reactions affect your life?

Spend time with your new best friend; a few hours or even a whole day would be ideal. Depending on how severe or mild your allergies are, your symptoms could take a few minutes or days to show up; take note of how you are feeling.

Make a haven zone. Make the bedroom a pet-free space; this will better protect your health and give your body the ability to recover.

Get the right help. Talk with your doctor or allergist before getting a pet and see what steps you can take to help yourself. A few options are allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT for short.

Treat the home, not just the symptoms. Allergies can be a struggle, making you fatigued and miserable. While allergy medication can help, you can look outside the medication box. Start treating allergens in your home wit frequent air filter changes, wash items in hot water or throw them in the dryer for 15 minutes on high heat, de-clutter your home, and use Allergen Spray. It's time to treat the source, not just the symptoms.



Common Questions

I react more severely to one particular cat over another!

This is because each cat is a unique allergen factory, with individual differences in both the protein types and their production levels

Do older dogs produce more dander?

Age can increase a dog's dander production due to drier skin. Additionally, certain breeds have a higher susceptibility to skin conditions like eczema and oily seborrhea, further contributing to dander levels.

How much of the population is affected by pet allergies?

Cat and dog allergies are estimated to affect up to 20% of the population worldwide.

What is the function of Fel d 1 in cats?

Surprisingly, the function of Fel d 1 is still unknown.

Does washing my cat reduce allergens?

Washing your cat doesn't decrease cat dander. A study found that Fel d 1 returns to original levels after just two days. And we all know how hard it is to wash a cat.

Do all cats produce Fel d 1 at the same rate?

While all cats produce Fel d 1, it has been shown that males produce more. Not all cats shed at the same rate.