"Hypoallergenic Dog" a Misnomer, says Study

According to a recent study, "hypoallergenic" dogs produce no fewer allergens than any other breed of dog.

When choosing a family pet, many parents keep in mind the rise of allergies seen in children in recent times, and may be tempted to choose a so-called hypoallergenic dog. It is a widely held belief that hypoallergenic dogs—such as the Bichion Frise, the Irish Water Spaniel, or the West Highland White Terrier—shed less fur and produce less dander and saliva, and therefore produce less allergens.

A recent study, however, conducted by a team of researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, discovered that there is no scientific evidence proving that hypoallergenic dogs produce fewer allergens than any other breed of dog.

The investigators collected dust samples from the floor or carpet of 173 homes, all containing only one dog. In all of the homes, the researchers found sixty different breeds of dogs, including eleven breeds considered hypoallergenic.

The investigators collected the samples in homes with a newborn child from the carpets of the baby's bedroom one month after the child was brought home.

Afterwards, the researchers examined the collected dust samples for the dog allergen Canis familiaris allergen 1 (Can f 1), which is a major allergen produced by pet dogs.

Through this analysis, the researchers discovered that there was no significant difference in allergen levels found in homes with hypoallergenic dogs and in homes containing other breeds of dogs.

"Based on previous allergy studies conducted here at Henry Ford, exposure to a dog early in life provides protection against dog allergy development,” senior author Christine Cole Johnson, chair of the hospital's public health sciences department. “But the idea that you can buy a certain breed of dog and think it will cause less allergy problems for a person already dog-allergic is not borne out by our study."

One snag of the study is that the scope of the research does now not allow the investigators to test specific breeds of dog for their allergen output. Regardless, however, the researchers stated that parents should not feel obligated to choose a certain breed of dog based on the classification of being hypoallergenic.

The study is published in the July issue of the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy.