Are Dogs Safe for People With Asthma?

If you have asthma, it can be hard to accept the fact that dogs can trigger asthma symptoms. But not everyone with asthma has the same response to dogs.

Certain adjustments may reduce the risk of dog-induced asthma symptoms for many people, but some people develop severe symptoms even from a brief exposure to objects that a dog has come in contact with.

While "hypoallergenic" dog breeds are popular for people with asthma, evidence shows that these dogs can still be still problematic for some.

an asian chinese female young adult having bonding time with her pet toy poodle on sofa near the window in living room
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How Dogs Affect Asthma

When you come into contact with a dog or when you spend time in a place where a dog has been, you may be exposed to the dog's saliva, hair, urine, feces, and skin flakes. A shedding known as animal dander typically contains a mixture of these components.

Dander can trigger asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. Individual components of dander, especially saliva, can be strong asthma triggers as well.

In rare instances, you can develop an asthma attack due to dog exposure, with severe inability to breathe.

Research shows that dander and other materials that dogs leave in the environment contain the proteins Can f 1, Can f 2, Can f 3, and Can f 6. These induce an immune reaction that triggers symptoms in some people who have asthma.

Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

"Hypoallergenic" dogs are those breeds claimed to be less likely to trigger allergies and asthma symptoms in people who are susceptible. Research also suggests that female dogs are less likely to trigger asthma symptoms than male dogs.

According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (ACAAI), dogs considered to be hypoallergenic include:

  • Afghan hound poodles*
  • Airedale terriers
  • Malteses*
  • Portuguese water dogs*
  • Samoyeds

The American Kennel Club (AKC)'s website includes a longer list of dogs thought to potentially be hypoallergenic, which includes those marked with an asterisk above as well as:

  • Affenpinscher
  • American hairless terrier
  • Barbet
  • Bedlington terrier
  • Bichon frise
  • Bolognese
  • Chinese crested
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Giant or standard schnauzer
  • Irish water spaniel
  • Kerry blue terrier
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Löwchen
  • Miniature schnauzer
  • Peruvian Inca orchid
  • Poodle (miniature, standard, or toy)
  • Russkaya Tsvetnaya Bolonka
  • Soft-coated Wheaten or Yorkshire terrier
  • Xoloitzcuintli 

While choosing a dog from these lists may be helpful if you have asthma, the ACAAI points out that selecting a dog of a particular breed isn't a guarantee that it won't trigger asthma symptoms.

Experts, including the ACAAI, warn that all dog breeds produce asthma inducing-proteins—even dogs that may have been labeled as "hypoallergenic." Additionally, homes where such dogs live do not have lower levels of dog allergen than homes where dogs of any other breed reside.

There may be individual stories and experiences shared by people who have asthma suggesting that they have fewer asthma symptoms around certain dog breeds. But none of the dogs on any list of hypoallergenic dogs have been scientifically proven to be hypoallergenic.

Managing Asthma When You Have a Dog

If you have asthma, there may be ways for you to minimize the effects that dogs have on your symptoms:

  • Bathe your pet once or twice a week or have it bathed by someone else.
  • Consider using a HEPA filter or vacuum cleaner​ to remove the asthma-inducing residue from your home.
  • Get your pet neutered/spayed.
  • Keep your pet out of your bedroom.
  • Make sure your pet is regularly groomed.
  • Remove carpet from the home.
  • Use slipcovers on pillows that can be easily washed.
  • Avoid contact with soiled litter.

Allergy Shots

You might consider talking to your healthcare provider about immunotherapy (allergy shots). This treatment involves getting shots of material that is similar to what triggers your symptoms so that your body can develop a healthier response.

Keep in mind that allergy shots are given under medical supervision so you can receive emergency treatment if necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Many people who have asthma are able to live with dogs. Your asthma may be more reactive to one type of dog than another, which can help guide your choice of pet. But remember that some dogs of the same breed may trigger your asthma symptoms, while others don't.

If possible, it is ideal to spend some time with a specific dog before making a decision about having it in your home. This way, you can see if and how your asthma symptoms react to exposure.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vredegoor DW, Willemse T, Chapman MD, et al. Can f 1 levels in hair and homes of different dog breeds: lack of evidence to describe any dog breed as hypoallergenic. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012;130(4):904-9.e7.doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.05.013

  2. Polovic N, Wadén K, Binnmyr J, et al. Dog saliva - an important source of dog allergens. Allergy. 2013;68(5):585-92.doi:10.1111/all.12130

  3. Fall T, Ekberg S, Lundholm C, Fang F, Almqvist C. Dog characteristics and future risk of asthma in children growing up with dogs. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):16899.doi:10.1038/s41598-018-35245-2

  4. American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology. Hypoallergenic dogs.

  5. American Kennel Club. Hypoallergenic dogs.

  6. Lei DK, Grammer LC. An overview of allergens. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2019;40(6):362-365.doi:10.2500/aap.2019.40.4247

  7. Nicholas CE, Wegienka GR, Havstad SL, Zoratti EM, Ownby DR, Johnson CC. Dog allergen levels in homes with hypoallergenic compared with nonhypoallergenic dogs. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2011;25(4):252-6. doi:10.2500/ajra.2011.25.3606

  8. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Pet allergens.

By Pat Bass, MD
Dr. Bass is a board-certified internist, pediatrician, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.