Hypoallergenic Dogs and Dog Allergies: FAQ
Obama Family Wants a Dog That Won't Trigger Dog Allergy in Daughter; What Are Their Options?
Nov. 12, 2008 -- Hypoallergenic dogs have gotten a lot of buzz lately as the
Obama family searches for a dog to bring with them to the White House --
without triggering dog
allergies in older Obama daughter, Malia.
A quick glance at the Internet shows lots of web sites devoted to
"hypoallergenic dogs" and "hypoallergenic dog breeds." But no
dog may be free of potential allergens, cautions allergy and asthma
expert Corinna Bowser, MD, of Havertown, Pa.
WebMD talked with Bowser about hypoallergenic dogs and dog
allergies -- and what the Obamas might consider to help avoid triggering
Malia's dog allergy.
(How do pets and allergy sufferers co-exist in your home? Share
your suggestions on WebMD's Allergy Support Group message board.)
Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog?
"I don't think there is such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog,"
Bowser tells WebMD.
She explains that the major allergen in dogs is a protein found in dog
serum, and dogs excrete that allergen in sweat and shed it from their skin.
"It also gets secreted into the saliva, and possibly a little bit in the
urine," Bowser says.
Since all dogs have that protein, no dog is completely allergy-free,
according to Bowser.
Karl Jandrey, DVM, an assistant
professor at the University of California, Davis' School of Veterinary
Medicine, agrees with Bowser. "There really is no truly allergy-free
dog," Jandrey tells WebMD via email. But Jandrey also notes that
"low-allergen" dog breeds may include poodle, bichon frise, and
What about dog breeds?
Bowser says she didn't find much evidence in medical literature about dog
breeds being better or worse for allergies.
But she did find a German study, published this year, that tracked allergies
among people exposed to various dog breeds. "They said factors related to
individual dogs seem to influence the allergenicity more than breed or gender,
which I thought was interesting," says Bowser.
In other words, it was a dog-by-dog issue more than a breed-by-breed issue
in that particular study, which Bowser says is the only one she found that
involved specialized allergy
Jandrey agrees that "some
people who have been allergic to one dog may be less allergic to other dog
breeds or individual [dogs] within the same breed."
Does the dog's size or hair length matter?
"The size of dog could matter in terms of the overall amount of
allergen," with smaller dogs contributing less allergen, says Bowser.
"Hair length could have something to do with how it spreads in the
house," Bowser says. She explains that shorter dog hairs may not stick as
much as long hair to furniture, clothes, and other surfaces, "so maybe the
allergen does not stick as much, but the amount of allergen should be the
What about dogs with no
hair? "Hairless animals have a lower allergenicity but the dander from
the skin can still pose a problem for anyone sensitive to it," Jandrey