No, no dog is completely hypoallergenic

No, no dogs are totally hypoallergenic

Your children would like to welcome a puppy into their home. But now, the youngest sneezes as soon as he is in the presence of these little furry animals. How to accede to their request without mortgaging their health? An often mentioned solution: a hypoallergenic dog. A decision not without consequence, explains the Rumor detectors. 

The origin of the rumor

The first mentions of the term “hypoallergenic”, attached to the canine genus, date back to the middle of the 20th century. But public interest in so-called “ hypoallergenic ” breeds would have taken off thanks to the Obama family, American researchers reported in 2011: after the highly publicized acquisition of Bo, a Portuguese water dog , a reputedly “ hypoallergenic ” breed.

Allergy: Blame it on the hair?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the dog's hair that causes the allergic reaction, but a class of proteins found in saliva, the dander — particles of skin that fall out with the hair — and pet urine. It is therefore contact with one or the other, and not strictly with the hair, that induces an allergic reaction. 

That a dog does not lose or very little hair is nevertheless mentioned as a protection against allergic reactions. In this regard, Spanish researchers concluded in a study published in 2018 that low hair loss would not eliminate exposure to dog saliva or other allergens, these different proteins found in dander, or in the urine, which may contribute to allergy symptoms.

“We could indeed think, explains Frédéric Sauvé, dermatologist-veterinarian and assistant professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Montreal, based in Saint-Hyacinthe, that these dogs would distribute less dander in the environment and that thus, people with allergies would be less exposed to it. But in fact, even naked dogs (hairless!) can induce an allergic reaction, through contact with their saliva or urine. »

Hypoallergenic breeds: no proof

Faced with the growing popularity of so-called hypoallergenic dog breeds, the American researchers cited above wondered whether the level of production of these proteins, including Can f1, could differ between these breeds and others. 

Although they admit that their study has limitations, including too few dogs per breed, they found that households with “hypoallergenic” dogs had as many and sometimes more allergens than those with non-allergenic dogs. 'other races. 

The lead researcher of this study, Christine Cole Johnson, told Time magazine in 2011  : “ We have not found any scientific evidence indicating that dogs classified as hypoallergenic are less allergenic. […] This idea that you can buy a certain breed of dog and think that there will be no allergic problems with someone who is already allergic to dogs is not supported by our study. Another study, published the following year, came to the same conclusion, this time analyzing the levels of this protein on the coat of so-called hypoallergenic dogs. It appears that this protein can indeed be found in high concentrations in hypoallergenic dogs. Moreover, the concentration of the Can f1 protein can vary more between individuals of the same race than between those of different races. 

A market?

Whether or not hair loss in dogs was described as anecdotal in another study, published in 2018, on canine characteristics and the risk of suffering from hair loss. asthma in children, some believe that this characteristic was born with the market. 

So in 2019, Melanie Carver, then Vice President for Community Health of the Asthma Foundation of America and allergy, claimed on the website How Stuff Works that the term “ hypoallergenic ” was more about marketing than medicine. 

“ In a way, notes Frédéric Sauvé, there is indeed in this designation – hypoallergenic – a little misinformation and some recovery. Animals play a big role with us. We saw it during the pandemic, during confinement: several people got a pet. So there is a market. »

A literature review on the state of knowledge on allergies to dogs and cats, carried out in 2017 by Korean and American researchers, concluded that “to date, there is not yet a hypoallergenic cat or dog , since to do so, all the allergenic proteins would have to be deactivated. […] And since the true in vivo role of several of these allergens remains unknown, deactivating them could have harmful consequences for these animals. »

Meanwhile, the company Purina has recently released a cat food that claims to neutralize salivary allergens… 

< strong>Verdict

Strictly speaking, there are no “hypoallergenic” dogs. All dog breeds (even “naked” dogs!) secrete a protein in their saliva, dander and urine, which can induce a reaction, depending on the degree of sensitivity of allergic people.

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