a unicorn and dog

Hypoallergenic Dogs Are As Common As Unicorns

There are many myths about allergies and the most common is that there are hypoallergenic dogs. People are convinced that they can't be allergic to their dog (and no one else should be either)!

Hypoallergenic pets don't exist

When I teach families about allergies and asthma, I tell them that hypoallergenic dogs (or most pets) are as common as unicorns – they don't exist.1

According to the Mayo Clinic, "pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal's skin cells, saliva or urine."2

Every dog has skin, saliva, and urine, therefore every dog can potentially cause allergies. Some people will tell me that their dog has hair instead of fur. Maybe their dog has short fur instead of long fur. Or it doesn't shed as much as other dogs.

But Mayo Clinic also explains that "so-called hypoallergenic cats and dogs may shed less fur than shedding types, but no breed is truly hypoallergenic."2

What causes pet allergies?

It's possible to be allergic to a protein in the saliva and urine of an animal, and their dead skin flakes (dander). Dander is pesky because it is so small that it can stay airborne for a long time, especially with the help of air circulation. Dander also has a habit of sticking to clothing, couches, carpet, beds, etc.2

So if you inhale a little dander, you could be really miserable.

Who is most likely to be allergic to pets?

If allergies run in your family, you may be more likely to have a pet allergy. Allergies and asthma run in my family and my 3 kids inherited allergies and asthma from me too. Curse those genetics!

Some experts say if you have pets when you are young, it may help avoid pet allergies later. The theory is that your body will get used to pet allergens and you will build up an immunity.

Sadly, that theory didn't work for me. I had cats, dogs, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, and a parakeet when I was little. You would think that would be enough animals to desensitize me! But no such luck.

How do you know if you are allergic to pets?

This can be tricky because allergies can mimic the common cold and COVID. The basic symptoms of pet allergies are sneezing, itchy eyes or nose, runny nose, congestion, cough, and dark circles under the eyes. An allergist can order a blood test or skin prick test to find out what you are allergic to.3

What to do if you are allergic

One day at work, someone said, "If you are going to tell me to get rid of my dog, you can turn around and walk out the door." Easy now!

I understand that pets are part of the family. So, can we find a compromise? Can people keep their dogs and their beds cleaner to eliminate some of the dander, saliva, and urine?

What if people:

  • Bathe the dog regularly
  • Wash the dog's blankets & toys
  • Keep the dog out of the bedroom and off the bed
  • Take allergy medicine
  • Have allergy shots

I have a friend who is allergic to dogs but desperately wanted a dog. She was willing to go through years of allergy shots to be able to have a dog. Her dog is adorable and brings her so much comfort!

How many of you are allergic to dogs or pets? Have you found anything that helps your allergies?

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