Dr. Dolittler

No such thing as ‘non-shedding,’ ‘hypoallergenic’ dogs

Presidential pooches: Bo, left, and his new 'little sister,' Sunny.
Presidential pooches: Bo, left, and his new 'little sister,' Sunny.
SOUZA / Washington Post


Q. I can’t stand pet hair and my husband is allergic, so we’re looking for a non-shedding, hypoallergenic dog. I’ve been reading about the Portuguese water dogs President Obama’s family has. Do you recommend them?

Every time the Obamas get a new dog, the Internet goes wild with advice on miraculously non-shedding dogs. The fact is that some dogs shed more and some less, but all dogs shed.

Furthermore, among certain “low-shedding” breeds such as Yorkies, Bischons and Portuguese water dogs, some individuals may shed copiously. Apparently, not every dog reads its breed’s press releases.

Moreover, just because a dog sheds less than most doesn’t mean it won’t require a lot of maintenance — an important point for prospective owners with a serious bias against pet hair who will likely be disgruntled with a “no-shedder” that requires daily brushing and frequent trips to the groomer.

Then there’s the issue of allergies. Low-shedders aren’t always less allergenic. And while some breeds are better suited to those who suffer from allergies, no breed of dog (or cat) is guaranteed to offer you an allergy-free existence. Indeed, within the so-called “hypoallergenic” breeds are plenty of individuals who may trigger your allergies even more profoundly than certain members of other breeds.

In other words, breed alone is not an effective criteria. If you want to be sure your husband won’t have an allergic reaction to an individual animal, he should enclose himself in a room with the candidate for a few hours. Only then will he know whether he’s likely to react adversely.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

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