No, Labradors are not hypoallergenic. We’ll explain what this means in the information to follow. But the short answer is that because Labradors shed their coats on a seasonal basis, they are among the breeds that are considered not hypoallergenic.
In This Article We’ll Cover:
- The truth behind “hypoallergenic” dog breeds
- Shedding expectation and management
- How to wash and treat your Labrador’s coat to minimize shedding
- Is it a good idea to shave your Labrador?
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
The word hypoallergenic means, something that is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. However, the breeds of dogs that are referred to as “hypoallergenic” can still cause these reactions.
An allergic reaction happens when a person’s immune system has a reaction to specific proteins, also known as allergens. When a person is allergic to dogs, it means their immune system is reacting to allergens produced by the dog. These allergens can be found not only in the dog’s fur but also in his dander, saliva, urine, mucus, etc. This means that even hairless dogs produce allergens.
Some people with dog allergies don’t react to all dog allergens. Because of this, these people may be able to tolerate some dogs better than others. Not all dogs, even of the same breed, produce the same allergens. This means that sometimes a person may have a reaction to one dog but may be perfectly fine with another, even if they came from the same litter. All dogs produce allergens of some type. However, some produce fewer allergens than others and they may be less likely to trigger allergic reactions. People who have extreme allergies or asthma may still be triggered by these dogs.
The Myth of the “Hypoallergenic” Dog
Many studies have been done to see if “hypoallergenic” dogs actually produce fewer allergens than other types of dogs. So far, none of these studies have found any significant difference in allergen levels between breeds. In fact, there were several instances when the allergen levels were higher in the homes of people who owned “hypoallergenic” dogs.
People mainly associate dog allergies with the hair or fur on the dog. Consequently, when a particular breed of dog is known for not shedding its fur, it is often mistakenly labeled as “hypoallergenic.” As previously mentioned, the allergens also come from a dog’s dander (dandruff), saliva, urine, etc. Therefore, no canine is completely hypoallergenic. In fact, those dogs who shed very little may cause just as many allergic reactions as those who shed a lot. They may simply cause different allergic reactions.
All dogs produce saliva and dander to some degree, even hairless ones. These allergen types and amounts seem to vary among dogs as well as how they affect different people.
A person who is allergic to one breed of dog, or even a particular dog within a breed, may not be allergic to another. Sometimes the size of the dog can come into play as well. The smaller the dog, the fewer allergens he produces due to the smaller amounts of hair, saliva, etc. The larger the dog, the more allergens he can potentially produce.
No dog is 100% allergen-free; therefore, no dog is 100% safe for people with allergies.
Does This Mean I Can’t Have a Lab?
Not necessarily, but if you are someone who is very sensitive to allergens then a Labrador may not be the best dog for you. However, if you don’t have severe dog allergies, then owning a Labrador could be quite manageable for you. Some tests have shown that Labs may have fewer allergens than some of the other large breeds.
Owning a Lab would be dependent on several factors. How much work are you willing to do to lower the number of allergens in your home? How often are you willing to brush and bathe your pet? What changes are you willing to make around your house so the hair doesn’t collect? Are you willing to take allergy medications on a regular basis? There are several things you can do to lower the allergens in your home but you have to decide if owning a Lab is worth it.
There are a number of breeds that may be easier on allergies that you could bring into your home. The American Kennel Club suggests these breeds for people who have dog allergies:
- Afghan Hound
- American Hairless Terrier
- Bedlington Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Lagotto Romagnolo
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Peruvian Inca Orchid (Hairless)
- Poodles (Toy, Miniature, and Standard)
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Schnauzers (Miniature, Standard, and Giant)
- Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Spanish Water Dog
You may not be able to own a Lab, but you still might be able to own a dog!
How Much do Labs Shed?
Labradors are known for regularly shedding their coat. The amount of hair your dog will shed is unique to each dog and can also be affected by climate.
Most Labs shed some throughout the year and then shed a lot at least twice a year. There is usually about a three-week period in the spring where they will shed their heavy winter coat to prepare for the warm weather. This process repeats itself in the fall as they lose their thin summer coat and begin bulking up for the cold winter months. However, some Labs are known to shed heavily year-round. It often depends on the dog.
Labs have very dense hair as they have a double coat. The sleek out layer is waterproof. Labs love swimming and this waterproof coat serves them well. The undercoat is more coarse and denser to help keep them warm. The double coat makes them tolerant of many different temperatures and allows them to swim even in cold water. However, this wonderful, thick coat also means that they shed quite a lot.
How To Manage Your Lab’s Shedding
Ugh! Is my house doomed to be a hairy mess?
Fear not, Labrador lover! If you’re wondering how to own a Lab and still keep your house presentable, here are some tips to help you manage your dog’s shedding in a safe and healthy way. We’ll also show you what you can do to you keep your house as doghair-free as possible.
Frequent bathing helps to manage the number of allergen-related proteins on your dog’s fur. There are special shampoos and conditioners that you can use that help minimize shedding. Massaging your dog while bathing him will help to loosen and separate dead hair and dander. Bathing your dog up to 2 times a week can help minimize and maybe even eliminate the reaction an allergic person has to the dog.
Labs need to be brushed regularly. They should be brushed once a day during the high shedding periods and once or twice a week the rest of the year. First, you should brush him with a rubber brush to loosen all the dead hair and to help distribute the natural oils evenly through the coat. These oils are what makes his coat smooth and shiny. After that, you should brush him again with a bristle brush. These get down to the skin and pull all the dead hair off. Be careful not to damage your Lab’s coat or leave bare patches as this can make him susceptible to sunburn and other rashes. Make sure you start at the dog’s head and work your way to his tail. Also, make sure you brush in the direction of his hair growth.
Another way to manage the allergens in your home is to vacuum frequently and keep your house clean. Some have found that doing a really good vacuuming once a week and then having a robotic vacuum run each night helps to keep the hair accumulation down considerably. It may also be a good idea to remove excess rugs and carpeting as it is easier for hair to accumulate on these surfaces. A good HEPA air filter can help remove allergens from the air as well.
Washing Your Lab’s Coat
As mentioned above, it is a good idea to bathe your Labrador frequently if you have someone allergic to dogs in the home. There are many special shampoos and conditioners on the market that will help minimize shedding. Make sure to use warm water and rinse all the shampoo and conditioner thoroughly from your dog’s coat Using a specialized de-shedding tool or glove, or bath brush to help remove the dead hair and dander will help as well.
When you are done bathing him, dry him with a towel as thoroughly as you can, then brush his coat out. Make sure to do this outside so you won’t have hair and dander floating around your house.
Our Black Lab, Trooper, has problems with dander. We use Mane and Tail shampoo and conditioner on his coat and it does wonders. This was originally created for horses but now lots of people use it for themselves as well. A friend of ours recommended that we try it on our dog and it has made his coat super-smooth and has kept his dander under control.
Having your dog groomed frequently at a groomer is also a good option. Many groomers have special tools to help remove dead hair. Using a groomer also keeps all of the allergens out of the air in your home.
Should I Shave My Lab?
No, you should never shave your Lab. As previously mentioned, Labradors have a dense, coarse undercoat used for insulation. Over that layer is the outer coat which helps to resist dirt and moisture. When you shave your Labrador, you remove his protective coating, leaving his skin susceptible to rashes and sunburn. It’s also important to understand that shaving does not actually decrease his shedding. It simply makes the hair he sheds shorter. Another reason you never want to shave your Lab is that it may cause his hair to grow back with a different appearance than before. So, avoid shaving your Labrador or you may end up with a dog whose coat doesn’t look quite right.
If you are a person who is highly sensitive to dog allergens then a Lab may not be the best dog for you.
However, if your reaction is mild and you are willing to put in a little extra effort to minimize the allergens then a Lab could end up being your best friend. The best way to find out is to spend some time around a Labrador. Visit a friend who owns one or spend some time with Labs at a shelter or pet store and see how your allergies respond. If your symptoms don’t flare up then a Lab will probably work just fine for you.
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