Are Spaniels a Hypoallergenic Dog Breed? An In-Depth Look at "Hypoallergenic" dogs
Have you noticed how many "hypoallergenic" dog breeds are growing in popularity nowadays? Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic breed, and what does it mean for allergy sufferers?
You might be wondering which dogs are hypoallergenic. If you're a Spaniel lover, you'll want to know if Spaniels, like the popular Cocker Spaniels or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are considered hypoallergenic. In this blog post, we will explore what the term hypoallergenic means in dogs, and take an in-depth look at whether Spaniels are a good choice for people with allergies to dogs.
Allergies and Dogs
When most people think of allergies, they think of hay fever or a runny nose. But did you know that these people can often also be allergic to dogs? Pet allergies are common, and allergies to dogs is a worldwide issue affecting 5–10% of adults.
Allergies to dogs often develop in childhood. Some children grow out of them; others may not. Allergies to dogs can also develop in people who regularly handle animals, like, kennel cleaners or vet nurses. Allergies develop because of repeated, regular exposure to immune triggers.
Symptoms of dog allergies can include watery and swollen eyes, puffiness in the face, a runny nose, general itching, and irritated skin. These allergic reactions can range from mild to severe symptoms, depending on the individual and your level of allergen (a substance that causes an allergic reaction) exposure.
What causes allergies to dogs
So, what exactly is a dog allergy? Well, it's an allergy to the proteins found in a dog's skin, saliva, dander (flakes of skin in an animal's fur or hair), and urine. These proteins can be found in a dog's coat, too. Even if you're not allergic to the dog's fur, you could still be allergic to the proteins in their hair.
Saliva proteins are what cause most people to be allergic to dogs. When a dog licks its fur, the saliva proteins get onto the dog's hair when licking. Then it transfers to anything the dog hair comes into contact with, including people. The presence of saliva (and protein allergen) is why people who are allergic to dogs often have a reaction when they are around a dog that has been licking itself.
These allergy-causing proteins exist in all dogs, but some breeds have higher levels of these proteins than others. That's why some people may be allergic to one breed of dog but not another.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog breed. The term "hypoallergenic" means that the dog produces less of the protein responsible for causing allergies in people.
When people think of hypoallergenic dogs, they may think of hairless dogs like the Chinese Crested Dog or the Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican hairless dog). But many dogs fall into the category of "hypoallergenic," including many with a full coat of hair. So what exactly is a hypoallergenic type of dog?
The term "hypoallergenic" means that the dog is less likely to cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to dogs. It does not mean that the dog is entirely allergy-free.
Hypoallergenic breeds are dogs that:
- produce less dander
- do not have hair, or
- don't shed or have minimal shedding.
Best hypoallergenic dog breeds
While there are many hypoallergenic dog breeds, it is essential to remember that all dogs produce dander. It is the dander (and other proteins, like saliva) that causes allergic reactions, not the hair itself. So, even if you are allergic to dogs, you may be able to find a hypoallergenic breed that does not trigger your allergies.
Apart from the hairless breeds mentioned, some other breeds are also considered "hypoallergenic".
One of the most popular hypoallergenic dogs is the Standard Poodle. Poodles do not have hair, but they have a coat made up of tightly curled wool-like fibres, so they are known as dogs that don't shed. These curly coat fibres do not shed as much hair, so less dander occurs.
This lack of shedding, and hypoallergenic reputation, accounts for the widely popular poodle cross breeds like the Labradoodle ( Labrador Retriever + Poodle), Schnoodle (Schnauzer + Poodle), Cavoodle (Cavalier King Charles + Poodle), and the Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel + Poodle). Of course, they have delightful personalities and make excellent companion dogs too.
While these are some of the most popular hypoallergenic breeds, several other non-Poodle breeds fall into this category, like the:
- Bichon Frise
- Maltese Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier, and the
- West Highland White Terrier.
Are Spaniels hypoallergenic?
The Spaniel is not a hypoallergenic breed. It's not considered a low shedding breed because of its coat type.
The Spaniel's coat consists of two types of hair (not fur): primary hairs and secondary hairs. The primary hairs are the Spaniel's outer coat, and the secondary hairs are the Spaniel's undercoat. These two coat levels are often known as a "double coat".
The Spaniel sheds both types of hair. Which means that they do produce dander, which can trigger allergic reactions in people who are allergic to dogs.
But remember, the term "Spaniels" encompasses many different breeds from the Cavalier King Charles to Cocker Spaniels to Cumberland Spaniels. And within those breeds, there are varieties, for example, the working Cocker Spaniel versus the show Cocker Spaniel. The coats of each Spaniel breed and any variants behave differently and are impacted by breeding genetics.
What is the most hypoallergenic Spaniel breed?
The Spaniel breeds that are most likely to be hypoallergenic and cause the least allergic reaction in people are American Water Spaniel and the Irish Water Spaniel. Why? Because these two Spaniel breeds have very tight curls in their coat, limiting the amount of dander, saliva, and other airborne allergens.
What can you do if you have allergies and own a Spaniel?
- Minimise contact to the allergy-causing material, like hair and saliva, where possible
- Feed your pup the best food you can afford to keep their coat and skin healthy
- Keep your dog clean with a naturally formulated shampoo and conditioner to minimise skin irritation and flaking
- Take them to a groomer to avoid hair and dander contact
- Regular brushing will help reduce shedding but ask a family member or groomer for assistance with that task
- Make sure your Spaniel's bedding and sleeping area is kept clean and free of dust mites, which can also trigger allergies
- Vacuum your floors and furniture often to minimise hair build-up in your home. Using something like a robot vacuum would be perfect as the pet hair won't lay around too long, and
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your Spaniel or their belongings, and consider using hypoallergenic wipes when you're unable to handwash immediately.
While there's no guarantee that these steps will completely stop your Spaniel allergies from flaring up, they could help minimise symptoms and make living with a Spaniel even more enjoyable!
I hope this has helped clear up any misconceptions about hypoallergenic dogs and given you some valuable tips if you're considering getting/or have a Spaniel but have allergies.
If you are an allergy sufferer, you could consider consulting with an allergy specialist before deciding which dog breed is right for you.
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments below about your experiences with hypoallergenic dogs.