Raising a dog is one of life’s great joys. However, for some people, dogs equal watering eyes and runny noses, or even worse a full allergic attack. For these unlucky souls, most dogs are to be admired from a distance or with a steady steam of anti-allergy meds which can give some unpleasant side effects. Sadly, one in three Brits has been forced to give away their pets because of the constant allergic reactions and a whopping twenty-six per cent have been unable to pursue a romantic relationship because of an allergy to their partners pet.
As such, many people turn to so-called hypoallergenic dogs – such as poodles – as a way to live with man’s best friend, without the worry and hassle of allergies (especially for those with asthma and other atopic conditions).
Toy poodles, miniature poodles and standard poodles are hypoallergenic as their hair traps most of the allergy-causing material shed by dogs, meaning you come into less contact with allergy-causing material with poodles.
But what’s causing these allergies? What do we mean when we say hypoallergenic? And are poodles actually hypoallergenic, or can they cause allergies too?
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
Contrary to popular belief, hypoallergenic doesn’t mean that a product or animal will cause no allergies. Rather, it is agreed to mean that the animal is less allergy-inducing when compared to other pets or dogs. However, technically speaking, there is no agreed-upon definition.
In the context of dogs, hypoallergenic typically refers to a reduction in shedding of hair and dander; thereby reducing the volume of allergy-related material. In theory, this means allergy sufferers can enjoy owning a pet without the downsides of continually sniffling.
Many people have decried hypoallergenic dogs are bogus. Though often they mean that dogs cannot be 100% allergy-free, which as we’ve established isn’t what hypoallergenic means. Some studies have cast doubt on whether hypoallergenic dogs do release fewer allergens than regular varieties. In one study, dust samples from 173 homes, involving 60 different dog breeds, found no significant difference between the levels of allergens present in the homes.
Despite these results, pet owners themselves have been noticed a reduction in allergies with hypoallergenic breeds, successfully enjoying the benefits of dog ownership. As each person’s immune system is unique, and each dog different, it’s best to deal with hypoallergenic dogs on a case by case basis.
Are Poodles Really Hypoallergenic?
So, we’ve established that dog allergies are more than just a nuisance, but a genuinely debilitating and annoying condition. Thankfully, there are hypoallergenic dogs, and while the science might be a little shaky, many owners can attest to the benefits.
But are poodles hypoallergenic?
The short answer is, yes. The long answer is sort of; it’s complicated.
Toy poodles, miniature poodles and standard poodles are widely regarded as hypoallergenic as their thick, curly, single coats are less likely to shed. As such, the dander and sweat are more likely to stay on their bodies, than become littered about the home, as fur falls off. The spiral, wool-like nature of their coat traps the dander and loose hair, allowing it to be carefully brushed off, as opposed to shedding everywhere. Additionally, poodles also shed less fur and dander.
Plus, poodles are less likely to drool compared with other dogs – another source of the allergenic proteins. However, they are incredibly energetic and prone to licking; but can be trained not to lick their dog owners. Due to their clean nature, it is much easier to contain dander and hair, reducing contact with allergens.
Poodle hair does grow continuously like human hair. To keep poodles in good condition, they need to be groomed regularly: washing, clipping or shaving, and brushing their hair. The more rigorous you make the grooming regimen, the better for your allergies.
Toy poodles, miniature poodles and standard poodles are also known for their intelligence and can be trained to defecate and urinate only in certain areas. Thereby further reducing the allergen-containing materials.
For these reasons, poodles are considered to be hypoallergenic, reducing the severity of symptoms or prevalence of severe attacks. However, they are still dogs. And you can’t have dogs without dander. Therefore, for people with severe allergies, poodles are likely to still cause problems, even with their beneficial traits.
If you’re planning on buying a poodle, it can be sensible to visit the dog and see how you react around them. Better to find out in advance, than after the fact.
Are Poodle Mixes Hypoallergenic?
There are three main breeds of poodle, all of which display hypoallergenic properties: the standard, the miniature, and toy poodle. However, there are also several cross-breeds, where a poodle is bred with another breed of dog to create a poodle-mix.
Often the poodle-mix came from a low shedder parent (the poodle) and a high shedding parent (the other breed). Cockapoos are perhaps the most famous example, being a cross between cocker spaniels and poodles (though there are also Labradoodles).
With these mixed dogs, you can end up playing the genetic lottery. As is the case with cockapoos, some have coats that long and curly, while others have a short and silky coat. It’s all dependent on which parent’s genes they inherit.
Therefore, while many cross-breeds are marketed as hypoallergenic, it depends on the mix. There is an exception, however. Poodles cross-bred with other hypoallergenic, low-shedding dogs, such as Bichon or Maltese, will receive low-shedding genes from both parents. These dogs are typically hypoallergenic as well.
What are Dog Allergies (And What Causes Them)?
First, to be clear, you’re not allergic to the actual dog. You’re allergic to the proteins they secrete in their dander (dead skin), saliva, and urine. Allergies occur when the body misidentifies harmless proteins or molecules as harmful, producing an allergic reaction. These reactions seem to be passed down in families, with people with certain conditions at higher risk of developing an allergy, e.g. asthmatics, eczema, and hay fever.
The proteins a dog secrete will inevitably get everywhere: carpets, clothing, walls, cushions, even your hair. Though dog hair is considered an allergen, it merely holds onto the dust and dander which cause the allergy, the hair itself is not the issue.
Symptoms of Dog Allergies
For most people, the symptoms of dog allergies won’t be severe, though, in some, it can become a serious health risk. If you’re not sure if you have a dog allergy, here are some symptoms you may experience:
– Redness of the skin (especially where a dog has licked)
– Coughing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
– Swelling or itching around eyes, mouth or nose
– Rash on the head and upper body
– Asthma attack
Treating Dog Allergies
There are many methods for treating allergic reactions: antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, decongestants, cromolyn sodium, allergy shots, leukotriene modifiers. These treatments aim to dampen the immune response, so when your body detects the allergen, the reaction is either less severe, or non-existent. Or they seek to alleviate the symptoms by soothing affected areas, e.g. decongestants make breathing more comfortable, by allowing swollen airways to shrink.
However, living your life on medications due to your pet isn’t much fun either. Ideally, you wouldn’t get an allergic reaction at all. Is this possible?
What Can Help Dog Allergies?
If you’ve bought a poodle but you’re still getting allergies, or you’re around another breed of dog, there are other methods to help alleviate your symptoms.
- High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Purifiers
These incredible devices will filter the air throughout your home, removing any dust and dander floating about in the air. If you clean frequently, then the HEPA purifiers will mop up the rest of the allergens.
- Create an Allergy-Free Zone
Have a room, or a section of the house, that your dog is not allowed to enter. Set-up a HEPA purifier; clean regularly; and you’ll have a safe space to recover if your allergies become unbearable. Using impermeable covers for mattresses, quilts, and pillows is also a fantastic way to prevent dander and dust ingraining themselves in your soft furnishing – thus, irritating you as you sleep.
- Brush and Bathe Your Dog Regularly
As the allergens come from your dog shedding, the best treatment is to keep the dog sparklingly clean; thereby, decreasing the amount of shed-able material. Use a good quality dog shampoo. When brushing, lay down a mat or sheet to catch the dander and fur, which can then easily be disposed of, and then cleaned.
- Clean Your Home
If it’s not direct contact with your dog that is causing your allergies, then it’s the dander and fur deposited throughout your home. It’s sensible to stop your dog’s laying on the sofa. But you’ll still want to vacuum every day and wipe down any surface and areas your dog frequently lays on. You won’t get every last bit of dander. But you’ll get enough to reduce your symptoms.
- Go to the Doctor
Yes, living on medication isn’t the best solution, but it is a solution. Seeing a doctor and following their advice can help reduce your symptoms and help ensure living with your dog is bearable.
Give Poodles a Chance.
So, toy poodles, miniature poodles and standard poodles are hypoallergenic. But that doesn’t mean they are allergy-free. You will still need to be careful and maintain high levels of hygiene and cleanliness to keep your symptoms low or non-existent. Many people with allergies have owned poodles and developed an incredible bond with these energetic and intelligent animals. If you’re a dog lover, it’s well worth the chance!