Allergy-free dog is probably just a legend

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Dog lovers with a pet allergy have a big problem when it comes to having a dog in the home. But the usual solution — getting a breed known to be hypoallergenic — may not be a safe bet. In fact, there may be no such thing as a low-allergy or allergy-free dog, according to a new report. The study found that the quantities of dog allergens in homes with supposedly hypoallergenic breeds are no different from those in homes with dogs widely considered non-hypoallergenic.

It is not even clear how a hypoallergenic breed earns the title. There is no single “official” list of them. Various breeds, often dogs that shed little hair, appear on lists posted on the Internet, and the American Kennel Club suggests 11 “hypoallergenic canine candidates,” including poodles, soft-coated wheaten terriers, schnauzers and the Portuguese water dog, made famous two years ago when the Obama family adopted one.

“I have no idea where this whole concept came from,” said Christine Cole Johnson, the senior author of the study, to be published online in The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy. “It’s been around for a long time, and maybe people associated it with shedding. I think it’s just a legend…”

The numbers of dogs of each breed were not large enough to allow for analyses by individual breed, but the researchers compared quantities of allergens found in the samples using various categories of purebred and mixed-breed hypoallergenic and non-hypoallergenic dogs. No matter how they did the comparisons — even comparing dogs identified as hypoallergenic by the A.K.C. against all other dogs — they found no statistically significant differences in levels of the major dog allergen, Canis familiaris 1…

Dr. Cole, an epidemiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said: “You can’t be assured that some breed is going to produce less allergen than another. Allergists, based on their experience, really think that it’s just individual dogs who have some variations based on genetics or behavior, who produce more allergens than others. But it’s not going to be a breed classification that predicts that.”

In our family, let’s face it, it’s the dog that makes the decision who gets adopted. Give us the right tail-wagging and “let’s go play outside together” look — we’re already locked in.

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