Many families, despite loving dogs, cannot own one due to one or more family members being allergic. These individuals will often turn to hypoallergenic breeds, like the Labradoodle, to fill the void in their homes while avoiding an allergic reaction. Is the hypoallergenicity of Labradoodles a marketing strategy or an irrefutable scientific fact?
Labradoodles are not hypoallergenic. Three protein groups (lipocalins, kallikreins, and secretoglobins) cause dog allergies; lipocalin is the predominant dog-linked allergen. The level of lipocalins produced varies between Labradoodles making some Labradoodles more hypoallergenic than others.
“Lifestyle” dogs, like the Labradoodle, are often put forward as hypoallergenic dogs based on anecdotal evidence, despite a lack of scientific proof. Prospective Labradoodle owners need to understand the complexities of dog-linked allergies in order to make an informed decision. Many allergic people are pleasantly surprised to find that they may not be allergic to all Labradoodles and can happily cohabitate with their dream dog!
Why Are Some People Allergic To Dogs?
A person’s immune system is a marvelously effective but highly complex system that protects people from diseases, trauma, and infections. An allergy is the product of a hypervigilant immune system overreacting to a harmless substance, like dog dander, pollen, and gluten.
During allergic sensitization, the body is exposed to the harmless substance and responds by making immunoglobin class E (IgE) antibodies. IgE choreographs an inflammatory response causing a range of symptoms that may include:
- Allergic rhinitis
- Conjunctival irritation with tear formation
- Asthmatic attacks
- Life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Researchers have discovered that three broad protein groups produced by dogs and cats are responsible for the allergic response seen in some people. The three proteins classes are kallikreins, secretoglobins, and lipocalins.
Over 50% of individuals with dog allergies are allergic to the lipocalin protein found in a dog’s urine, saliva, and skin cells (dander).
Why Are Allergies To Dogs Becoming More Common?
Over time the role of dogs has adapted and evolved, as has their relationship with humans. Initially, dogs were working animals that primarily lived outdoors; however, people’s view of dogs has shifted.
Modern dogs are viewed as family members who live in the house amongst the people. The daily interactions and close living quarters increase people’s exposure to allergens which can induce allergic sensitization amongst older children, teenagers, and adults.
Between 2010 and 2015, pet ownership amongst Americans went up by 3%, and it is estimated that approximately half of all American households own at least one dog. A significant portion of these dogs is classified as indoor pets.
Are Labradoodles Hypoallergenic?
Many blogs and websites divide dog breeds into allergenic and hypoallergenic breeds based on anecdotal evidence.
Most dog allergies are caused by lipocalins produced by the liver and secreted in saliva, skin cells, and shedding hair. Approximately 70% of dog allergies are caused by an immune-mediated IgE inflammatory response triggered by exposure to Canis familiaris 1, a type of lipocalin.
To be classified as hypoallergenic, a Labradoodle would need to do one of two things:
- Not produce any lipocalins, e.g., Canis familiaris 1
- Not release lipocalins into the environment through excessive drooling and shedding
Studies conducted in 2011, 2012, and 2021 by different researchers found no difference in the levels of Canis familiaris 1 in the homes of hypoallergenic dogs, like Labradoodles, versus homes with allergenic dogs. The authors of these papers noted that the levels of Canis familiaris 1 vary between dogs.
While many people firmly advocate the hypoallergenicity of Labradoodles, science has not confirmed the hypoallergenic status of Labradoodles.
It is not scientifically accurate to label any dog breed hypoallergenic, although a person’s allergic sensitivity to individual dogs may vary.
Do Labradoodles Trigger Allergic Reaction In All People?
While Labradoodles may not be scientifically recognized as hypoallergenic dogs, the fact remains that many people suffering from dog-related allergies do not show a reaction when exposed to a Labradoodle.
Three variables may explain the low allergenicity of Labradoodles:
- The Labradoodles parentage and coat type
- The individual variations amongst Labradoodles with regards to allergen production and shedding
- The allergen-specific reaction of different people
A Labradoodle’s Parentage And Coat Type
Labradoodles are designer crossbreeds that are created by crossbreeding Poodles and Labradors.
Dog breeders often classify Poodles as hypoallergenic due to their tightly curled, low-shedding coats and minimal drooling. However, Labradors, the other half of a Labradoodle’s parentage, are listed as allergenic dogs.
F1 Labradoodle crosses (i.e., 50% Labrador and 50% Poodle) will be an equal mix of Labrador and Poodle traits. F1 Labradoodles with a Poodle type coat will shed less than F1 Labradoodles with a Labrador type coat.
Thus, Labradoodles with coats more characteristic of Poodles than Labradors are less allergenic than Labradoodles with Labrador-orientated coats.
Many breeders have chosen to focus their attention on F2 (i.e., second-generation) Labradoodles due to the perceived hypoallergenicity of these dogs. The F2 cross may be achieved by crossing two F1 Labradoodles with each other or by crossing an F1 Labradoodle with a purebred Poodle.
The F2 cross created from two F1 Labradoodles does not show improved hypoallergenicity. However, an F2 cross with 75% Poodle 25% Labrador mix will show more Poodle traits and thus be less likely to trigger an adverse reaction amongst people who are allergic to dogs.
Individual Variations Amongst Labradoodles
As mentioned previously, the amount of Canis familiaris 1 produced and shed by dogs shows significant variations between individual dogs.
Individuals with dog allergies may show no reaction to one Labradoodle with low Canis familiaris 1 while showing a severe allergic reaction to another Labradoodle with high levels of Canis familiaris 1.
A 2010 study found that homes with altered (i.e., neutered males’ dogs and spayed female dogs) had higher levels of Canis familiaris 1 when compared to houses with unaltered dogs.
By contrast, a 2015 study did not find any measurable difference in the Canis familiaris 1 levels of sterilized versus unsterilized dogs. However, this study identified a difference in Canis familiaris 1 level based on gender; female dogs shed more Canis familiaris 1 molecule than males.
It is reasonable to conclude that people with Canis familiaris 1 dog allergies should preferentially select male Labradoodles.
The Allergen-Specific Reaction Of Individual People
Early in the article, I mentioned that 50% to 70% of dog-based allergies are linked to lipocalins, specifically the lipocalin Canis familiaris 1.
Thus, 50% to 30% of individuals allergic to dogs are allergic to the secretoglobins and kallikreins produced by dogs and not the more common lipocalin-linked allergy.
Secretoglobins and kallikreins have not been studied to the same extent as lipocalins.
Preliminary research has found that kallikreins are present in higher concentrations in urine than dander. Thus, individuals with kallikrein allergies can manage their dog allergies better than individuals with lipocalin allergies. It is much easier to control when and where your Labradoodle goes to the toilet than when and where your Labradoodle breathes or sheds dander!
Prostatic kallikreins are significantly higher in unneutered males than neutered males. Individuals with kallikrein-specific allergies should choose Labradoodle females.
The predominant allergen shed by cats is a type of secretoglobin, FEL D 1, whereas, amongst dogs, the major allergens are lipocalins. Individuals with secretoglobins-linked allergies are unlikely to develop adverse reactions when exposed to Labradoodles.
How Do I Know If A Labradoodle Will Trigger My Allergies?
While Labradoodles are not considered hypoallergenic, the reactions of allergic individuals to Labradoodles vary significantly between dogs.
Individuals with severe or life-threatening dog allergies should consult with their doctor before entertaining the idea of owning a Labradoodle or other dog breed.
People with minor dog allergies can “test” themselves with different Labradoodles to see if a specific dog elicits a reaction. Gradually increasing the time spent with a Labradoodle will allow prospective owners to determine whether the Labradoodle is a good fit.
Ideally, the allergic person should incrementally increase the time spent with one Labradoodle while monitoring themselves for allergic reactions.
If the Labradoodle does trigger a reaction, give yourself 2 weeks to a month with no dog contact before attempting to spend time with another Labradoodle. This time off allows your body to restabilize and not confuse the picture with lingering allergic symptoms when meeting with a different Labradoodle.
How Can I Test My Allergy To A Labradoodle?
An allergic person’s gradual introduction and habituation to a Labradoodle cannot be performed at a shelter. The environment is contaminated with allergens released by other dogs housed in the shelter and will cause a false-positive reaction in the allergy sufferer.
This method of “trying out” and testing your response to a specific Labradoodle is best done if:
- You are considering adopting a Labradoodle being rehomed by a friend, family member, or neighbor
- You are buying a puppy from a reputable breeder located nearby
It is important to remember that allergies may develop in response to other dogs on the breeder’s property, which may be mistakenly attributed to the Labradoodle you are working with.
Should People With Dog Allergies Get Labradoodles?
People with severe life-threatening dog allergies should not get a Labradoodle unless they have consulted with their doctor. Getting a dog, even one as lovable as a Labradoodle, should not be at the cost of your life!
The decision on whether to get a Labradoodle for individuals with minor to moderate severity dog allergies is highly personal.
While individual Labradoodles may elicit different reactions amongst allergic people, there is a high risk that an allergic person will continue to struggle with low-grade symptoms. These symptoms can be managed with medication, general hygiene, and limiting your Labradoodles access to specific rooms in the house.
If you or your allergic housemate are willing to make these compromises for the privilege of owning a Labradoodle, then getting a Labradoodle is a life-enriching opportunity.
A few people will show no allergic reaction when exposed to their Labradoodle and thus do not have to make the near-impossible choice between chronic health issues and owning their dream dog.
Should I Keep My Labradoodle Away From My Baby?
Children exposed to the microbial allergens released by dogs while in-utero and during the first year of their life are less likely to develop pet-linked allergies later in life. Researchers have developed a greater understanding of the link between early-life microbial diversity and allergy development in recent decades.
Most large-scale studies and meta-analyses of research results indicate that children living in microbially diverse environments (e.g., farms) are less likely to develop food, pet, and respiratory allergies. Thus, early exposure to Labradoodles may assist your child in avoiding a dog allergy later in life.
Do Children Grow Out Of Dog Allergies
It is important to note that allergy sensitization and desensitization are individually determined processes. Some children do grow out of their dog allergies and may find that they have reduced or even no symptoms when exposed to dogs in their later years.
However, other dog-allergic children become progressively more sensitized during each dog interaction. Children with severe life-threatening dog allergies should avoid all dog interactions.
Is My Child Allergic To My Labradoodle?
Before rehoming your Labradoodle due to your child’s allergy, it is essential to determine if your child is truly allergic to your dog or something associated with your Labradoodle. A specialist allergist will assist you and your child in identifying their specific allergen.
You may find that your child is allergic to the plant your Labradoodle loves to roll in rather than the Labradoodle itself. It is easier to remove a bush than rehome your beloved Labradoodle!
According to the research done in the past few decades, hypoallergenic dog breeds are a myth! Labradoodles are often marketed as hypoallergenic based on anecdotal evidence; however, scientific studies have not supported these claims.
People with dog allergies are allergic to one or more of the three protein families produced and secreted by dogs: lipocalins, secretoglobins, and kallikreins. Individuals who are predominantly allergic to the lipocalins should preferentially choose male Labradoodles, while kallikrein-specific allergy sufferers should stick with female Labradoodles.
The allergenicity of a Labradoodle will vary between dogs according to the level of lipocalins produced and shed by individual Labradoodles. F2 Labradoodles with predominantly Poodle traits are often more hypoallergenic than F1 Labradoodles or Labradoodles with more Labrador traits than Poodle traits.