Non-Allergic Dogs: Do They Exist?

James Thompson, MD Health Pro
  • This is a common question that surfaces in homes of those who have allergic respiratory problems. Often young children wear down their parent’s resistance as they learn about dogs that are non-shedders, or perhaps short haired. A desperate pre-teen may discover a breed of hairless dogs such as the Xoloitzcuintli (try pronouncing it for fun- see below).


    Truth is there are no “non-allergic” dogs. The allergen responsible for triggering nasal symptoms, asthma and at times allergic skin reactions is found in the small flecks of skin scale and hair called “dander.” Therefore a dog would have to be skinless in order to be almost non-allergic. I used the term “almost non-allergic” because allergen proteins have also been identified in the saliva and urine of dogs.

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    There are short haired and longhaired dogs, large, medium and small dogs, as well as heavy and light shedding dogs. Probably the small, light shedding (often referred to as non-shedding, but they all shed) dogs are preferred if you’ve made your mind up to get a dog. But my best advice for parents thinking about getting a dog or cat for their allergic child is “not to get one.”

    I’ve seen more grief and despair when parents have to remove a pet from the home than when they block attempts to bring a new pet in. Realize that it’s not so much the pet being around you, or close to you, as it is the build-up over time of dander in things that surround you.


    Pillows, mattresses, sofas, chairs, carpets, cushions, ducts and other surfaces become reservoirs for dander probably more potent collectively in triggering sneezes and wheezes than sitting for hours with the dog on your lap.


    Here are some tips if you already caved-in on getting a dog:

    1)    Prevent / reduce exposure to dander by keeping the dog out of the bedroom at all times. Keep the bedroom door shut when leaving the house. Keeping the dog outdoors is ideal but not practical in northern regions of America. Keeping the dog on hardwood, tile or linoleum floors, far removed from the bedroom and family room may be helpful. The laundry room is not a good place for the dog because clothing, linen and other washable items may become infiltrated after washing and drying.


    2)    Keep your pet off the bed, pillow, couch, cushions (that people sit or lay on) and chairs. Training your dog to stay off these items may be challenging but rewarding in the end.


    3)    Frequent bathing of your dog may reduce indoor dander levels for a limited period of time. According to one study, weekly bathing can reduce dander levels by more than 80%, but apparently just for a few days. Twice weekly bathing may be more effective but difficult to do with some breeds.


    4)    Changing filters once monthly while heating and cooling systems are in use may also reduce dander levels. Better yet, getting a HEPA filter for your furnace / air conditioning unit, or bedroom, may reduce aerosolized dander particles.


    5)    Keep the bedroom and family room clean and clear of clutter, as much as possible. Frequently wash curtains and drapes (better not to have drapes). Vacuum frequently and use a HEPA based vacuum cleaner in order to reduce the backflow of small dust and dander particles associated with the exhaust.


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    6)    Tightly woven pillow and mattress encasements should be considered for the bedding. The same materials used for dust mite controls may reduce dander levels in the micro-environment of your bed as you sleep.

    7)    Some homes have registers (vents) in the wall for heating and cooling supply and return (flowing out and in). Closing the return registers (sometimes high on the wall) in the room where the dog mostly stays, and placing special register filters over bedroom vents may also reduce exposure to dander. Unfortunately, closing certain registers may disrupt the flow of heated and cooled air about the house, but correspondingly you may be successful at disrupting the flow of dander.


    Bottom Line

    Non-allergic dogs do not exist. If you have the opportunity to prevent home dander invasion by keeping a dog, cat or other furry pet out of your home, stand your ground. If it’s too late, do the best you can with some of the tips given above. Get a consultation with your local allergist if severe nasal symptoms or asthma worsens. Allergy shots may reduce sensitivity to dogs (and cats) and enhance the quality of life if environmental controls and medications aren’t enough.


    Is your dog a low shedding breed?


    Has it worked out for you?


    This is how you pronounce “Xoloitzcuintli”











Published On: April 24, 2014