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That Labradoodle May Not be Hypoallergenic After All

That Labradoodle May Not be Hypoallergenic After All

The white dog in the picture is a Labradoodle—the offspring of a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. 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.

Related: Preventing pet allergies in your child.

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.

Related: Why do dogs cause allergies?

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.

Related: How healthy is your home?

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.

Medically reviewed in March 2018.

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