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Allergic to dogs? Pass on that 'hypoallergenic' poodle: study

Matthew Sherwood/matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

Forget about that labradoodle: A new report suggests household allergens are no lower in homes that keep hypoallergenic dogs versus hairier, dander-heavy breeds.

"We found no scientific basis to the claim hypoallergenic dogs have less allergen," senior author Christine Cole Johnson said in a release.

"Exposure to a dog early in life provides protection against dog allergy development. But the idea that you can buy a certain breed of dog and think it will cause less allergy problems for a person already dog-allergic is not borne out by our study," said Dr. Johnson, who chairs the Department of Public Health Sciences at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital.

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It's been long thought that hypoallergenic dogs such as poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs (the preferred breed of the Obamas) generate less dander and shed less.

In the current study, researchers analyzed dust samples from 173 households, one month after a newborn was brought home. The samples came from the carpet or floor in the baby's room; the study only included homes with one dog.

Sixty dog breeds were involved, 11 of them considered hypoallergenic. Researchers found no significant differences in allergen levels in homes where either hypoallergenic dogs or non-hypoallergenic resided.

To boot, in homes where the dog was forbidden from entering the baby's room, allergen levels were slightly higher in homes with hypoallergenic dogs versus homes housing their non-hypoallergenic counterparts.

The study, to be published online this month in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy, concludes that parents should not rely on breeds classified as hypoallergenic.

The American Kennel Club lists a number of breeds "that generally do well with people with allergies."

They include Schnauzers, Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, and Xoloitzcuintli (that's the newly recognized Mexican Hairless Dog).

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But the Association is clear on its caveat: "This list is based on breeds which usually produce less dander. The American Kennel Club does not recommend or endorse any specific breed, nor does it claim that the listed breeds will not affect people with allergies."

Allergic dog owners, weigh in.

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