This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 13, 2013.
Some dog lovers cling to the idea that certain breeds don’t make allergy sufferers sneeze and wheeze.
They are sold on the idea that dogs with short fur, or dogs that have hair instead of fur, or dogs that don’t shed, or poodles or doodles or even President Obama’s Portuguese water dog are all “hypoallergenic pets.” But the results of a study on dog allergens in homes tell a different tale.
Researchers in Detroit visited 173 single-dog homes and vacuumed their bedroom floors, searching for samples of the most common cause of dog allergies: canis familiaris 1, a protein in the pet’s saliva. They discovered the allergen in all but 10 homes, and there was virtually no difference between the amount in homes with dogs labeled hypoallergenic and those with dogs that were not.
The scientists looked to the American Kennel Club and other dog resource websites and organizations to determine which dogs to test as hypoallergenic. The list included both purebreds, like shih tzus, terriers and poodles, and mixes where one of the dog’s parents was supposedly hypoallergenic, like labradoodles.
The dogs labeled hypoallergenic averaged the same amount of canis familiaris 1 as non-hypoallergenic dogs. There weren’t enough dogs in the study for researchers to determine whether any specific breed produced less allergen than others.
The study found that allergen levels were higher in homes whose dogs had been spayed or neutered. Tile and wood floors had slightly less canis familiaris 1 than carpeted floors, and pet owners could also limit allergen by limiting which rooms dogs were allowed in.
Keeping dogs entirely outdoors reduced levels of allergen in homes, but it didn’t eliminate it. In fact, a separate study by the same research team showed that canis familiaris 1 was even present in about half of homes without dogs, possibly because dogs had lived there in the past.