The little gray dog in the picture above is my 8-year-old daughter’s pride and joy. The dog’s name is Jinx and she’s a Schnoodle—the offspring of a schnauzer and a poodle. At Christmas, we adopted Jinx from a shelter and she lives on our farm with our Labradoodle, Callie. You might say we have oodles of doodles.
Like a lot of people (including the Obamas), our interest in doodles stems from pet allergies. Our son, Graeme, has asthma and severe contact and food allergies. When he is around cats, his skin breaks out and he has breathing issues. My wife’s asthma also acts up around cats and certain dog breeds. And my eyes can water and swell nearly shut after contact with some animals.
The obvious way to solve this problem is to get a fish, but we like furry friends. So our last two pets have been doodles. Poodles, along with other pure breeds, like Shih Tzu, some terriers, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Schnauzers are said to be hypoallergenic because they shed less than other breeds. (Bo, the Obamas’ Portuguese Water Dog, is also one of these breeds.)
Crossbreeds like Labradoodles are also popular with the allergy set because they combine the low-shedding benefits of purebreds with other desirable traits (a Labrador Retriever’s happy-go-lucky personality, for example). The dogs can get expensive. One breeder in our area changes $1500 to $3000 for a labradoodle puppy, far more than breeders charge even for a purebred poodle.
Are they worth it? If your aim is a hypoallergenic dog, new research says they might not be.
While the dogs may shed less (all dogs shed), they produce allergens just like their looser-haired cousins. In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology last month, researchers looked at so-called hypoallergenic breeds—Labradoodles, Poodles, Spanish Waterdogs and Airedale Terriers—and found their levels of Can f 1, one of the most common dog allergens, higher than those of standard and mixed breeds considered non-hypoallergenic.
They also looked at airborne and floor levels of the allergen in the pets’ houses and found very little difference in levels between hypoallergenic and non-hypo dogs’ homes. The results align with those of a study published in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy last summer, where researchers measured the levels of the allergen in homes of people with similar breeds. They didn’t find that special breeds were all that special at keeping down Can f 1 levels.
Does that mean these dogs aren’t as allergy-friendly as advertised? Probably. But researchers in the more recent study wrote that allergic owners reported fewer issues with hypoallergenic breeds, even though the study wasn’t designed to measure allergic reaction levels. Both are facts worth considering if you or your family have allergies are looking to add a pooch to your home.
In our house, we’ve never really seen much of a difference between reactions caused by our old Labrador Retriever and Chow (both now gone) and our more recent doodle additions. Still, without our doodles, we’d all be sad puppies.
Do you have a “hypoallergenic” dog? What has your experience been? Tell us in the comment box below.
Join the largest health conversation in 140 characters or less! Tweet what you want to talk about to @SharecareNow and let’s start chatting!
File under: In the News