15 Hypoallergenic Dogs and Cats

If you love animals but hate allergies, you may be tempted to spring for a pricey hypoallergenic pet. However, the only pets proven to be hypoallergenic have scaly skin—like iguanas and snakes. That said, if you're dead set on a furry pet, here are a few that are touted—but not proven—to be better for people with allergies.

If you suffer from allergies, being around dogs can be a torturous experience.

Bedlington Terrier

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Think your best bet is a short-haired dog? Surprise! You’ll find short- and long-haired breeds populate the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) list of dogs that do well with people with allergies.

That’s because it’s not the dog’s hair per se that causes allergies, it’s the saliva, skin, or other proteins. Allergens (particularly saliva proteins) can latch on to the hair, so less shedding in general—rather than the length of the hair—may be helpful.

Bedlington terriers have curly, wooly coats with an extra mop on the top of the head, and weigh 17 to 23 pounds.

Bichon Frise

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Known as “powder puff” dogs, bichon frises have a soft silky undercoat and a more coarse and curly outer coat.

These dogs weigh about 10 to 18 pounds.

In general, dog allergens are microscopic particles that can hitch a ride on other air pollutants, including cigarette smoke and particulate matter generated by traffic.

Cutting down on indoor air pollution can help stop the circulation of symptom-triggering allergens in your home, experts say.

Chinese Crested

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This pup sheds little to no hair, which again can lower—but not eliminate—allergens in the home.

One member of the breed, Sam, had the dubious distinction of being voted the unofficial world’s ugliest dog for three years in a row.

Chinese crested dogs comes in two versions—hairless, which have hair on the head, feet, and tail; and powderpuff, which have a soft coat over the entire body.

These dogs weigh 10–13 pounds.

Devon rex cat

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The Devon rex has big ears, an elfin face, and a coat that can be either thin and suede-like or a mop of loose curls, according to the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).

These cats have a "dubious" reputation for being hypoallergenic, and symptoms will vary "according to an individual's personal allergies," says the CFA.

In general, kittens shed more allergens than cats. Although the levels seem to drop at 6 to 12 months of age, "they still cause allergies," says Dr. Seltzer.

Irish Water Spaniel

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These dogs have a curly coat and can weigh 45 to 65 pounds.

The AKC says they "require brushing every few weeks and trimming every two months to neaten and shape the coat."

Regular grooming and bathing of dogs can reduce, but not eliminate, allergens, says James Sublett, MD, section chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

"If you do the grooming outside the house you're not going to stir up as much allergen."

Kerry Blue Terrier

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These dogs have a soft, dense coat and weigh 33 to 40 pounds.

Originally bred as hunters, they may not do well in households with cats or other small pets, according to the AKC.

Dr. Sublett notes that if "you're allergic to one dog, you're allergic to all dogs."

There's "not really any guarantee that an animal will be hypoallergenic," he says.

Labradoodle

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Labradoodles are created by crossing a poodle and Labrador retriever. The original intent was to produce a seeing-eye dog that was also hypoallergenic.

It is a popular choice for those with allergies, but the American Kennel Club does not recommend such "designer dogs."

“There is no way to guarantee a litter will produce puppies with equal poodle coats, making the high prices unjustifiable and the claims of these dogs being ideal misleading at best,” according to the organization.

Maltese

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These dogs are small—generally 4 to 6 pounds—and are covered with long silky fur that should be brushed daily.

While grooming a dog outside the home can help reduce allergens inside it, it can also help to "take a damp washcloth and wipe the animal down," says Dr. Sublett.

A simple daily wipe down with a slightly soapy cloth can remove allergens as well as commercial sprays or other products that are sold as a way to reduce allergens, he says.

Poodle

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Poodles come in three sizes—toy, miniature, and standard. How to choose?

While there's no rock-solid evidence that smaller dogs trigger fewer allergy symptoms than large, experts say they probably produce fewer allergens.

"Clearly a smaller dog should shed less total dog allergen than a larger dog," says Dr. Seltzer, who is an allergist-immunologist at the Fallon Clinic in Worcester, Mass.

Portuguese Water Dog

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The most famous Portugese Water dog, Bo, is currently residing in the White House.

However, the high-profile pooch—selected because Malia Obama has allergies—may have helped fuel the myth of the truly hypoallergenic dog.

The perception that you can side-step allergies by "something as simple as getting a shorter-haired animal or even a hairless animal is just not accurate," says Dr. Sublett.

And spending a few hours with an animal won't tell you if it will pose future problems, he says. Daily exposure can trigger a new allergy or "keep the fire stoked" on chronic problems.

Schnauzers

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Like poodles, schnauzers come in three sizes—miniature, standard, or giant.

Smaller dogs may be more tolerable for people with allergies because they can shed less dander than larger dogs.

Frequent baths, regular grooming outside the house, and having easy-to-clean wood floors instead of allergen-trapping rugs may help.

"At the same time, you shouldn't deceive yourself that you can completely remove your exposure," says Dr. Sublett.

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

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This dog has a long silky coat and weighs about 30 to 40 pounds.

One factor to keep in mind: Dogs with longer hair may pick up other allergens, such as pollen, when outdoors.

"You may get more symptoms as a result of having a long-haired dog than a short-haired dog," says Dr. Seltzer.

Sphynx

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These cats can be hairless or just have hair on the nose, tail, and toes. However, they still produce dander—the skin and saliva proteins that are powerful allergens.

In general, cat allergens tend to be more potent than dog allergens, for those who are sensitized.

The good news? Allergy shots—routine injections of allergens that can result in tolerance over time—are more likely to be successful for those allergic to cats than those who are allergic to dogs, says Dr. Seltzer.

"Allergy shots for cat can be effective in as many as 65% of people," he says. "But it does take a year or two often to start working."

Xoloitzcuintli

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Like the hairless cat, a hairless dog like the Xoloitzcuintli will still produce skin dander. (It also comes in a coated version.)

Like the poodle and schnauzer, this ancient breed comes in three sizes—toy, miniature, and standard.

Allerca's GD cat

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Allerca is a company launched in 2004 to produce pets free of the major allergens, Fel d 1 (cats) and Can f 1 (dogs). Prices for cats range from $6,950 to $16,000 and dogs are available for $8,950.

The problem is that removing these proteins from the skin, saliva, and other secretions may not be enough, says Dr. Sublett. Animals can produce other symptom-triggering allergens.

"Both dogs and cats have what we call minor allergens, so it's not only the major allergens," he says. "Most people have a sensitivity to minor allergens too."

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