Worst Dog Breeds for Allergies

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Dogs are one of the most popular pets in the United States and are often referred to as “man’s best friend.” Unfortunately, some people may experience an allergic reaction to dogs. A dog’s dander, urine, and saliva can trigger allergy symptoms, which can include coughing, sneezing, and more.

Read more about dog allergies, symptoms, and treatment, and if certain breeds are more likely to cause allergies than others.

Training a dog in a field.

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An Overview of Dog Allergies

Pet allergies affect 10%–20% of the world population. While people are twice as likely to be allergic to cats than dogs, dog allergies can sometimes be more serious than cat allergies.

While some dog breeds may be more likely to trigger allergies than others, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, meaning they don't trigger allergic reactions at all.

Someone who is allergic to dogs may be able to reduce their symptoms by selecting a certain breed or type of dog with less of a reputation for inciting allergic reactions. This is not a guarantee, though. 

Even if you get a less “allergenic” dog, you will still have to take a number of precautions to decrease or avoid the chances of allergic reactions. 

What Causes Dog Allergies?

An allergic reaction is an abnormal response of the immune system.

The immune system acts as the body’s main line of defense against foreign substances, but sometimes a person’s immune system becomes overly sensitive to certain substances in that individual's environment. The immune system will react as though they are dangerous or toxic rather than relatively harmless substances.

In the case of a dog allergy, a person’s immune system is overreacting to the proteins in the dog’s urine, saliva, or dander (dead skin cells).

Contrary to popular belief, dog fur itself is not an allergen (a substance that produces the allergic reaction). Dog dander or dried saliva are often left behind on a dog’s fur, though, and these are what actually cause the allergic reaction.

Because dogs shed their dander and their fur containing dander and dried saliva, the allergens can collect on furniture, floors, and any other surfaces where the dog stands, sits, or lies down. This can pose a challenge to people with dog allergies, but managing the condition is not impossible. 

Symptoms of Dog Allergies

The main symptoms of a dog allergy include:

  • Itchy, inflamed, and watery eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Congestion
  • Rash
  • Itchy mouth or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • An asthma attack (in more severe/rare cases)

These symptoms can appear within minutes of exposure or start occurring up to an hour later. For milder allergies, the reaction can be delayed a day or so after exposure.

Allergies by Dog Breed

There are no extensive studies determining whether some dog breeds are more allergenic than others. In fact, one study found that homes with dog breeds considered hypoallergenic actually did not differ in the level of allergens from homes with other breeds.

However, some dog breeds have a reputation for triggering allergies. This may be due to certain traits like shedding more, having a thicker coat, and drooling. All can contribute to causing more frequent or intense reactions in a person who is allergic.

The dog breeds that have a reputation for being more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than others include:

  • Dogs that drool: Such as Saint Bernards and bulldogs
  • Dogs with dry skin: Such as German shepherds
  • Dogs with allergies: Such as terriers (bull and Boston)
  • Dogs with thicker coats: Such as cocker spaniels and border collies

Dogs That Drool

Saint Bernards and bulldogs drool a lot. Saliva is known to contain allergens. Dogs that drool or slobber a significant amount may not be an ideal choice of pet for someone with dog allergies.

Saint Bernards also have a reputation for triggering allergic reactions, in part, because they are very large dogs. As a general rule, larger dogs may be releasing more allergens into their immediate environment than smaller dogs simply due to their size.

Dogs With Dry Skin

Bathing your dog regularly can help avoid allergens getting into the air because it decreases the amount of dander on the dog. Some dogs, like German shepherds, are more likely to have dry skin, so bathing them regularly can be challenging.

Dogs With Allergies

Different terrier breeds, including Boston terriers and bull terriers, are known to have allergies themselves. As a result, they have more mucus than others dogs, which may trigger allergies in people too.

Dogs With Thick Coats

Cocker spaniels usually have a double coat (an extra-thick, two-layer coat of fur) and are known for shedding more than other breeds. While fur itself isn’t allergenic, it can often carry allergens, such as pet dander, in it.

Border collies also have thick coats and are known to shed a lot.

Different Types of Dander

Different dog breeds may produce different types of dander and an individual may have a reaction to one type of dander and not another. The degree of reaction may differ, too.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pet Allergies

If you notice symptoms of an allergic reaction after interacting with a dog, talk to your physician about getting tested for allergies.

Your physician may suggest that you reduce or eliminate exposure to the suspected allergen to see if symptoms go away. After spending some time away from the dog, you will be able to notice if there is any relief.

Diagnosing allergies usually includes reviewing symptoms, conducting a medical examination, and doing testing.

The types of tests for allergies include:

  • Skin tests: This can include a skin prick test. A small amount of the allergen (proteins found in dog dander) is pricked (skin prick testing) or injected (intradermal skin testing) under the dermal layer of the skin. A visible reaction, such as redness and swelling, usually indicates an allergy.
  • Blood tests: These are used to detect if antibodies for the allergen are present. Blood tests can also check white blood cell counts, including a type of white cell called an eosinophil, which tends to increase in response to allergies.

Blood testing is sometimes less reliable than skin testing, but it can be a better alternative if someone is sensitive to skin testing, takes certain medications that could interfere with skin testing, or is prone to anaphylaxis.


Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction in which the airways swell, affecting a person's ability to breathe. In some cases, anaphylaxis can be fatal. Anaphylaxis from skin testing is rare.

Treating Dog Allergies

The best treatment for dog allergies is reducing exposure as much as possible. This means not having a dog or not allowing your dog to sleep in or have access to certain rooms in the home where you spend most of your time.

Since most people spend a significant amount of time in their bedrooms, not allowing the dog into your bedroom can substantially decrease allergen exposure. 

A person who is allergic to dogs can also take allergy medicine to decrease symptoms associated with the allergy.

Medications used to treat allergy symptoms include:

If these options do not work well or you need a longer-term option, you may want to consider immunotherapy, or allergy shots.

Immunotherapy consists of getting a weekly injection for four to six months and then, usually, a monthly injection for three to five years. The allergy shot contains a very small amount of the allergen, which slightly increases in dosage with each injection. This will help steadily increase the body’s tolerance of the allergen over time.

Managing Dog Allergies

Immunotherapy can be time-consuming as well as expensive if health insurance does not cover it. In this case, a person with dog allergies could minimize their symptoms in other ways if they have a dog in their home.

Avoid choosing a breed that is suspected of causing severe allergic reactions. This includes dogs that are prone to shedding or drooling. 

Other ways to manage dog allergies include:

  • Remove carpeting from your home or invest in a high-quality steam carpet cleaner for regular use.
  • Clean your home regularly.
  • Wash bedcovers, sheets, and couch covers often. 
  • Bathe and brush your dog regularly (bathing once a week and brushing daily are recommended).
  • Invest in high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

A Word From Verywell

Being diagnosed with dog allergies can be frustrating or upsetting, especially if you love dogs. If you are committed to or desire to be a dog owner, look for breeds that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions, including ones that don't shed or drool very much. Remember that no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but if you take steps to manage dog allergies properly, you can enjoy time with the dogs in your life.

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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.
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By Laura Kiesel
Laura Kiesel is a health and environmental writer and reporter from the Boston area. She has written for many distinguished publications and outlets, including Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the Guardian. She has a Master's degree in environmental science and policy and a Bachelor's in English and journalism.