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Some Breeds Might Be Better Choices for People with Allergies

No breed of dog is totally hypoallergenic. However, certain breeds seem to tolerated better by people with persistent allergies.

In a recent study investigating people with animal-related allergies, researchers found that the worst animal for hypersensitive people to own was guinea pigs, followed by rabbits and cats. Dogs also make it into the top five animals most likely to cause allergies. The source of these allergic reactions is the hair, skin, and dander of these animals.

In dogs, there is great variability of hair length, color, diameter, and transverse contour between breeds and even between individuals in the same breed. Dog hair is classified as one of six types: straight, bristle, wavy bristle, bristled wavy, large wavy, and fine wavy. 

Some of the variation in the implantation angle of the hair follicle also accounts for the different coats we see in dogs. The hair of certain breeds (the Chinese Shar-Pei, for example) may be particularly sharp-and, as a result, irritating to some people. Shorthaired breeds usually show a reduction in the undercoat, whereas Poodles have a reduced outer coat, resulting in a proportionately softer undercoat.

Each hair follicle is associated with various scent glands and oil glands that serve to coat the hair and make it more resistant to the environment. People can be allergic to these oils themselves, but this secretion may help to trap allergens and irritating substances (such as dander, dust, pollen, and synthetic fibers) on the hair.

Certain breeds (among them the Miniature Schnauzer and the standard Poodle) have been reported to be better for people with persistent allergies. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that many people with allergies react even to these so-called “hypoallergenic” breeds. No breed is totally hypoallergenic.

But your veterinarian, in conjunction with your physician, can help determine the best course of action for you to pursue and which breed to select.

The original version of this article appeared in AKC Family Dog’s “Ask Dr. Kevin” column.

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