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Are Australian Shepherds Hypoallergenic?

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

young girl having allergies because of her australian shepherd pet

No, Australian Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. However, it isn’t because they shed a lot, though that is absolutely true.

Instead, they aren’t hypoallergenic simply because there aren’t any hypoallergenic dog breeds out there. Even dogs that don’t shed still cause allergies – often at the same rate as dogs that do shed. The term “hypoallergenic dog” is a myth. There is no scientific proof that any dog produces lower allergy symptoms than others.

In fact, the opposite is actually true. Studies have clearly shown that homes with “hypoallergenic” dogs and homes with shedding dogs have the same number of allergens.

To understand exactly why Australian Shepherds (and other dogs) aren’t hypoallergenic, it’s essential to understand how dog allergies work.

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What Are Dog Allergies?

When someone has dog allergies, they are not allergic to the dog’s hair. Instead, they are allergic to the proteins that the dog creates. There are actually several proteins that dogs regularly make. However, those with allergies are usually only allergic to one or two.

These proteins are found in the dog’s dander, saliva, urine, and hair. While dogs that don’t shed may not spread their hair around, they will still make the same amount of dander, saliva, and urine. In other words, they still tend to create the same amounts of allergens that other dogs do.

Generally speaking, these proteins are harmless. However, in those with dog allergies, their immune system interprets them as foreign invaders. Therefore, the immune system responds to the “threat” of canine protein just like it would anything else. It does this through the release of histamine.

The symptoms dog allergies cause is actually due to the immune system reacting – not the dog’s protein doing anything malicious. For one reason or another, the immune system simply thinks that it needs to defend against the dog hair – even though it is harmless.

Symptoms often include things like runny nose, asthma attacks, sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, and even hives. Usually, the closer contact you have with the dog, the worse your symptoms are.

Some people can be around a dog for a moment – but develop symptoms if they are regularly in a home with the dog.

blonde girl allergic to dog sneezing in tissue near adorable pug_lightfield studios_shutterstock
Image Credit: Lightfield, Shutterstock

What About Hypoallergenic Dogs?

All dogs create proteins. Therefore, all dogs will cause allergies. Originally, it was assumed that dogs that didn’t shed might spread allergens around less, making it easier for people with dog allergies to handle. However, we have since discovered that this doesn’t seem to be the case. The dog’s dander and saliva still find their way into the home’s dust at the same rates.

Therefore, non-shedding dogs do not produce fewer allergens. Until there is a skin-less, saliva-less dog, there will be no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Instead, these dogs simply spread fur around less, which has little to do with allergies in the long run.

As you can see, hypoallergenic dogs don’t exist — and really can’t exist.

Australian Shepherds are not hypoallergenic at all. Plus, they also shed moderately to heavy amounts of hair, which also means that they aren’t considered non-shedding dogs either.

Different Canine Proteins

With that said, the type of dog protein you’re allergic to matters. Not everyone is allergic to every type, and not every dog produces every type. Therefore, it is sometimes possible for those with dog allergies to live completely fine with some dogs – as long as they can find a dog that doesn’t produce the protein they’re allergic to.

Australian Shepherds produce six different proteins that someone can potentially be allergic to. These are called Can f 1, Can f 2, etc.

The most common allergen is Can f 1. Sadly, all dogs produce this protein. It is found in the skin of all Australian Shepherds. Therefore, if you are allergic to it, an Australian Shepherd would surely cause symptoms.

However, only intact males produce the Can f 5 protein. This protein is specifically made inside the prostate gland. If a male is intact, they produce it. Otherwise, they don’t.

For those allergic to this particular type of protein, female Australian Shepherds are often a good choice. While they are dogs, they will not produce the allergen that you are prone to. Neutered males are often also a safe choice, though they may still produce very small amounts of this allergen.

Luckily, many people with dog allergies are actually only allergic to Can f 5. Therefore, there are many people with dog allergies that would actually be completely safe with a female dog.

Most dog allergy tests check for all the proteins at the same time. Therefore, they can let you know if you’re allergic to dogs in general – but not the specific protein you’re allergic to. You often have to ask for individual allergen tests specifically or just test it out by hanging out with a female dog.

allergy
Image Credit: jmexclusives, Pixabay

Are Australian Shepherds Bad for Allergies?

Australian Shepherds are not any worse for those with allergies than other types of dog breeds. In fact, these dogs produce the same number of allergens as other dogs. They also shed a lot, though this does not improve their overall allergen production.

With that said, Australian Shepherds are bigger than some other breeds, which means that they produce more allergens. They simply have more skin than other dogs, for instance.

Therefore, they may produce a worse response than some other dog breeds. However, this isn’t due to their shedding level but their size.

As we’ve previously stated, female Australian Shepherds do not produce Can f 5. Therefore, those who are only allergic to the Can f 5 protein may be able to adopt a female Australian Shepherd without a problem.

Are Mini Australian Shepherds Hypoallergenic?

No, mini Australian Shepherds still have skin and saliva, so they are not hypoallergenic either. They also shed exactly the same.

However, due to their smaller size, they may produce fewer allergens. They simply have less skin than their larger counterparts.

Still, we wouldn’t recommend a miniature Australian Shepherd for those with dog allergies. If you are only allergic to Can f 5, then you could likely adopt a female, though.

toy australian shepherd
Image Credit: John Hoehn, Shutterstock

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Conclusions

Australian Shepherds shed a lot. However, this isn’t necessarily why they produce an immune response. The proteins found in a dog’s skin, saliva, and urine are the primary reasons they produce an immune response in those with dog allergies. For this reason, all dogs produce an immune response, whether they shed or not.

If a dog has skin and saliva, they produce the proteins that those with dog allergies are allergic to!

However, female Australian Shepherds do not produce the Can f 5 protein, which is the cause of many people’s allergies. Therefore, you may be able to adopt a female Australian Shepherd if you are only allergic to the Can f 5 protein.

Australian Shepherds do shed a lot and require significant amounts of grooming. We recommend ensuring that you have plenty of time to meet these grooming needs before you commit to adopting one of these dogs.

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Featured Image Credit: Izemphoto, Shutterstock

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