Adopting a pet already has it’s challenges, but if you or family members suffer from allergies then this task can seem monumental. Thankfully, there are a number of hypoallergenic dog breeds out there ready to be adopted. But even this process comes with its own set of problems: like being able to define which breeds are actually allergen-free, and the daily grooming routine you’ll have to undertake.
So before you go out and adopt your first non-shedding pup, we’ll need to get some essential bits of information in order.
- The Real Cause of Allergies
It’s easy to mistake allergies as being caused from your dog’s fur – but the real culprit is what’s hidden underneath. The true cause of your watery eyes and stuffy nose are the thousand of dead skin particles known as pet dander being released into the air. More specifically, your body has mistaken the proteins found in dander as an enemy invader, and responded with your allergic reaction. All animals (including humans) shed skin particles, which means there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.
Wait a second – so what’s all this talk about hypoallergenic dog breeds then?
There are a few dozen dog breeds out there that grow hair, not fur – as a result they shed less and produce significantly less pet dander. These are the infamous non-shedding or “hypoallergenic” breeds. That being said, they still produce a small amount of dander, so extreme allergy sufferers won’t find much relief. But if you only have mild to moderate allergies this could be the perfect solution.
However, it’s not just pet dander that can trigger allergies. The proteins known to cause reactions are also found in saliva and urine. So you should be wary of adopting any heavy droolers, or dogs difficult to potty train.
- Looks Can Be Deceiving
When you think of a shedding dog I’m sure you’d name a few long-haired fluffy breeds like German Shepherds or Huskies – and you would be right. These are double-coated breeds, which not only shed a huge amount of fur, but also produce high amounts of dander responsible for your allergies.
Where new owners may get confused is with short hair. Remember: short hair doesn’t mean less shedding (or dander). This goes back to our common assumption that hairs cause allergies, when it’s actually the skin particles underneath.
In another example: Poodles and Schnauzers both have long hair, but these dogs are non-shedding and hypoallergenic.
You can’t trust your eyes when it comes to adopting a dog, you have to do your homework and know your breeds. This is especially important because of the next big issue we have to discuss: some of the information you receive may be misleading.
- Rescue Centers / Breeders Don’t Always Know What They’re Talking About
The unfortunate truth is that some breeders or adoption agencies may not know everything about hypoallergenic dog breeds. And in some cases will hand out wrong information in order to sell puppies faster. This is a big problem for allergy sufferers. If you haven’t done your research you could end up with a pup that suddenly causes your allergies to flare up.
Often the confusion begins with mixed breeds. It’s easy to assume that if a dog looks like a poodle then it must have some hypoallergenic traits. Only for you to find that your sinuses are congested whenever you come near that dog.
As an allergy sufferer you’ll need to do some tight research and be very picky on the dogs you’ll consider adopting. Which brings us to the next important point…
There is a huge assortment of hypoallergenic breed breeds waiting to adopted. When it comes to purebred dogs it makes the process fairly easy. If you go to a reputable breeder you’ll be assured that a dog’s genetic line is all hypoallergenic breeds and you’ll adopt a pup that suits you perfectly.
So what about mixed breeds? Well, that’s where things get messy. The only way to guarantee a hypoallergenic mixed breed is to ensure it is a third generation hypoallergenic litter. Meaning both parents, and grandparents, must be hypoallergenic. By mixing in one dog that produces allergens it could change the litter traits for generations.
A good example of this is the infamous Labradoodle, often touted as being totally allergen free. But remember, this is a cross between a Poodle, and a Labrador Retriever (very bad for allergies). If you find a reputable breeder you can certainly find a dander-free mixed breed. But what if you don’t know that dog’s family history? Then it’s a gamble, and the only true way to tell is to spend some time with these pups yourself and rate your allergic reaction.
- Keep Your Dog and Home Clean to Stay Allergy Free
So you’ve adopted your new pup and you’ve been living happily together sometime, but something is starting to happen. After several weeks and months your dreaded allergies begin to creep back in. What happened?
Your pup may just need a bath. Pet dander will slowly build on the surface of the skin over time. Also, that dander will build up throughout your home disguised as dust. Once these particles are disturbed and become airborne you’ll find your allergies quickly flaring up. A routine of dusting, vacuuming, and bathing can keep this well under your control.
- Grooming Your Hypoallergenic Dog
Caring for a non-shedding dog has a few challenges. Remember that these breeds grow hair, and not your typical fur coat. And much like the hair on your own head it needs brushing, bathing, and regular haircuts. But what you may not know is the danger of tangles. Unlike human hair, unbrushed dog hair will continue to develops mats that tighten over time, and will eventually pull on the skin. This creates a tightly knit “pelt” that is extremely uncomfortable.
This would be similar to tying a weight to your own hair, and every time you move the weight pulls on your scalp. Thankfully the solution is quite easy: at least three times a week spend 10 minutes brushing your dog’s coat out. Ensure you have a brush with long pins to reach right down to the skin (but avoid irritating the skin by using a soft pin brush or comb).
If the tangles become too much, a groomer will often recommend shaving them down to the skin. Don’t worry, non-shedding breeds grow their hair back, and this will will usually provide instant relief (especially in the hot months).
This Sounds Like a Lot Of Work
While this may sound like a long list of extra responsibilities (and it is), it’ll all be worth it. You get a pup that doesn’t leave hair stuck to the couch or your clothes, and you don’t have to swallow an antihistamine every time your dog licks your face. Not to mention the lifelong friendship that comes with your furry companion!
I absolutely knew I wanted to work with dogs from the time I was born, and that’s exactly what I did. Straight out of high school I went to college and shortly after was hired as a Veterinary Technical Assistant at a local practice. After several years in the medical field I then fell in love with grooming and decided to open my own shop. And I now run a blog at PlayBarkRun.com where I share all my experience with other dog owners and lovers. No matter what field I’m in, I feel most at home dedicating my time to dogs and helping owners.