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Are German Shepherds Hypoallergenic? Facts & Allergy Care Tips

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

German shepherd lying on sofa

Hypoallergenic dogs are that do not bother dog allergies. Usually, dogs that do not shed much are described as “hypoallergenic.” By this definition, German Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. However, the term hypoallergenic is quite misleading, as we will discuss in this article.

German Shepherds are not hypoallergenic by any means, but you can’t say that any dog breed is completely hypoallergenic.

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What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?

A hypoallergenic is often thought to be one that does not bother allergies as much as others. Usually, dogs described as hypoallergenic are those that do not shed very much. Many people assume that since these dogs do not shed much hair, the hair will not bother those with allergies all that much. However, it is not the hair that bothers those with allergies.

Instead, those with allergies are bothered by the saliva and skin of the dog. Since there is not saliva- and skin-less dog, there is no utterly hypoallergenic dog either. All dogs with saliva and skin will bother those with allergies. It’s the proteins of the dog, not the dog’s hair.

Therefore, getting any dog labeled as “hypoallergenic” won’t work for someone with a true allergy.

However, dogs that shed a lot release more saliva and skin cells into the air. The loose hair works as a transport for all the things that cause allergies, like dead skin cells. Therefore, those that shed do tend to cause allergies worse than those that do not. But that doesn’t mean that non-shedding dogs will not cause shedding at all.

a kid sneezing
Image Credit: Luisella Planeta Leoni, Pixabay

The Type of Allergy Matters

Even if you’re allergic to dogs, you may be able to own a German Shepherd with little to no reaction. Research has shown that the type of dog allergy you have matters. Some dogs do not have the same proteins as other dogs. Therefore, if you’re only allergic to a specific protein, then you may be able to get a dog that doesn’t have that protein.

Recent research shows that only intact male dogs create the protein called Can f 5. Therefore, if you are allergic to this specific protein, you can get a female dog. The female dog won’t cause this reaction. Therefore, a female German Shepherd would be just fine!

There are about six different proteins that can cause reactions in people with dog allergies. Can f 5 is only made in a male’s prostate gland. A neutered male won’t produce much of this protein, and a female won’t produce any of it. The specific allergy affects about 30% of those with dog allergies.

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The 7 Ways to Manage Allergies

Suppose you are still set on keeping a German Shepherd while having dog allergies. There are a few things you can do to prevent an allergic reaction.

1. Use Air Cleaners

For instance, a high-efficiency particulate air cleaner can remove these allergens from your air, which can significantly reduce your allergic response. While any air filter will likely work, a HEPA filter usually works the best. You can even find vacuums with HEPA filters, which can help eliminate the amount of dander that has built-up around your home.

Usually, those with allergies react to the dander in the air. Because a HEPA filter removes this dander, it can reduce the number of reactions as well.

air cleaner
Image Credit: Devanath , Pixabay

2. Have Pet-Free Areas

The dog’s dander will likely build up in the places where your pet spends the most time. Therefore, if you restrict your dog to certain areas, you can also control where the dander is to some extent. For instance, we recommend keeping your dog out of your bedroom. You spend a lot of time in your bedroom, so reducing the number of allergens in your bedroom can significantly limit the number of allergic reactions you experience.

Furthermore, if there is little to no dander in your room, you’ll be able to sleep much better. You won’t be having allergic reactions in the middle of the night when you’re trying to sleep.

You should also not allow your dog on the furniture, as this can cause a dander build-up in the area you’re sitting. Instead, try to limit your dog’s sleeping to a specific pet area, like the dog bed.

German Shepherds are a very trainable breed, so it should be easy to train them to avoid certain areas.

3. Regular Grooming

When it comes to a German Shepherd, you will need someone else to take over the grooming. It is essential to brush the German Shepherd every day and bathe them at least once a week. However, you will need someone else to do this, as being around that much hair can cause your allergies to flare up.

Wet dogs also shed less than dry dogs. Plus, a well-groomed dog won’t have as much dander to lose, which can further reduce the number of reactions you have. Use a good shampoo that is made to moisturize skin. Dry skin will result in more dander, which can cause more reactions. A well-groomed dog will leave much less dander and fur laying around.

4. Medication

There are also several medications you can take to reduce your allergy response as well.

Here is a list of some of the most common dog allergy medications:
  • These medications block the production of histamines, which is the chemical response that causes allergic reactions. For example, histamines cause itching, sneezing, and runny nose.
  • These medications shrink swollen nasal passages, which may swell when you interact with dog hair. However, they are not safe for everyone. Those with certain underlying conditions should not take it.
  • These are steroids that reduce some allergy symptoms, like inflammation.
  • Leukotriene modifiers. This medication will need to be prescribed by your doctor. It affects your immune response at its source, blocking your immune system from attacking the dog protein.

In some cases, immunotherapy may be an option. However, this usually takes quite a while and is very time-consuming. It is a permanent fix to the allergy, though. Depending on how badly you want a German Shepherd, it may be worth it.

Usually, this involves having an injection every 2 to 4 weeks for a few years. Each injection contains a small amount of the allergen. The point is to slowly get your body used to the allergen, eventually significantly lessening or even getting rid of your allergies altogether.

5. Get Rid of the Carpet

Carpets tend to lock stuff in, especially pet dander. Therefore, you may want to remove any carpet in your home, as it may increase the number of allergens in your air at any one time.

Switching to hardwood floors can reduce the number of allergens, especially if you’re using HEPA filters and high-quality vacuums. When you are cleaning your floors, wear a mask to prevent air particles from flying up into your face and causing problems.

Pet dander can also stick to blankets and rugs, so be sure to clean these things often. Everything should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week to avoid pet dander build-up.

black german shepherd puppy
Image Credit: Yama Zsuzsanna Márkus, Pixabay

6. Have Pet-Specific Clothing

When you interact with your pet, have pet-specific clothing. This can be as simple as something you put on over your clothes, which will prevent your clothes from getting dirty and laced with pet dander. You won’t be taking your pet’s dander out to work with you, which can significantly reduce your allergy symptoms. If you have pet dander following you around all day, you will have much worse symptoms.

Be careful when washing your pet clothes. You don’t want to end up with dander all over all of your clothes, so be sure to wash your pet clothes separately.

7. Wash Your Hands Often

Whenever you touch something that has pet-dander on it or move from a pet-space to a non-pet-space, wash your hands. You want to remove as much pet-dander as possible. Often, you’ll need to scrub your hands quite well – hand sanitizer often won’t be enough.

Allergic reactions usually won’t start until you get dander on your face. Usually, this is done by touching your face with a dander-infected hand. If you wash your hands often, you can avoid this. Prevent touching your face when you haven’t washed your hands.

If you’ve rolled around on the ground with your dog, you may want to take a quick shower. This isn’t always necessary for every interaction, but it can be quite helpful whenever you may have been heavily exposed to dander.

hand washing
Image Credit: Martin Slavoljubovski, Pixabay

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Are German Shepherds the right choice for those with allergies?

While there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, German Shepherds are not a particularly good dog for those with allergies. They have a double coat, which means they shed far more than most dogs. They also produce a lot of dander. This dander can then attach to their fur and travel long distances. It can also avoid being sucked up by the air filter, making HEPA filters much less useable for those with German Shepherds.

Can German Shepherd hybrids be hypoallergenic?

Yes and no. As we discussed, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed. All dogs have dander, which means they will all cause an allergic reaction in those with allergies. However, some produce less dander than others. Loose hair can also spread these allergens around a bit more, which can cause those with allergies to have more reactions.

Some German Shepherd hybrids may not shed as much as a purebred German Shepherd. For instance, a German Shepherd-Poodle mix may not produce as much loose hair, helping those with allergens. However, these dogs will still produce proteins, which is the real source of the allergic reaction. Therefore, they will still cause reactions in those with allergies – just perhaps not as often.

However, the major problem with mixes is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. Sometimes, you may get a dog that doesn’t shed at all, but other mixes may shed just as much as a German Shepherd. Since you can’t predict how a mixed breed will turn out, they usually don’t make excellent dogs for those with allergies.

Pet breeders or websites that try to inform you of specific hypoallergenic German Shepherd mixes are misleading. Yes, some dogs from a particular mixed breed may shed less. However, they will all still produce dander, and there is no way a breeder can predict which puppies will shed and which won’t.

Furthermore, dogs often shed according to the seasons and their hormones. A dog that sheds very little may suddenly shed a whole lot when the seasons change. You can’t predict this.

The last thing you want is for your beloved dog to become dangerous for you suddenly. Therefore, it is usually best not to purchase a mixed breed with the assumption that they won’t shed. You never know when the dog may start shedding.

Mixed-breed German shepherd and Labrador Retriever_Mickis-Fotowelt_shutterstock
Image Credit: Mickis Fotowelt, Shutterstock



Are German Shepherds Hypoallergenic?

German Shepherds shed a lot, but they produce about the same amount of dander as every other dog. Because dander is what causes allergies – not dog hair – German Shepherds are about as hypoallergenic as all other dog breeds. Though low-shedding breeds are often labeled as “hypoallergenic,” all dogs have dander, and they will all cause an allergic reaction.

However, the high-shedding breeds like the German Shepherd tend to spread their dander further. The hair acts as a vehicle for the dander to move around, which can cause severer reactions in dogs.

Featured Image: New Africa, Shutterstock

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