Do you have an allergy to dogs? Allergies to any kind of pet with fur are common, with people who have asthma or other allergies being especially prone to pet allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that up to 30% of people with allergies will have allergic reactions to furred pets. Other expert sources put the proportion of the US population with dog allergy at around 10%.
Are Whippets hypoallergenic? No, Whippets are not hypoallergenic dogs even though they have a single coat of short hair and shed less than some other breeds. Allergies are commonly triggered by an animal’s dander. Whippets do have dander and do shed some hairs covered in dander. They can therefore trigger allergic reactions in those with dog allergies.
Whether you’re looking to learn more about Whippets, hypoallergenic dog breeds, or dog allergies in general, this article could help you. We look at the questions of whether Whippets are hypoallergenic, how allergic reactions to Whippets occur, and whether they can be a good dog for allergy sufferers. Read on to find out more…
Are Whippets Hypoallergenic?
No, whippets are not hypoallergenic even though some sources wrongly describe them in this way. Whippets have short hairs, a single coat of fur, and shed fewer hairs than many other dog breeds. But this isn’t enough to make them hypoallergenic. It is usually the dander (dead skin cells) from the surface of the dog’s skin that triggers an allergic reaction in sensitive humans.
Dog hairs coated in dander are shed around the house in greater or lesser quantities depending on the breed of dog, time of year, and individual tendencies. The allergens then get into the air or onto the skin, setting off allergy symptoms including itchy eyes, sneezing, and running nose.
Whippets produce a normal amount of dander and do shed some hair, especially in spring and summer when the weather is warmer. This normal shedding has the potential to trigger allergies in susceptible people. Allergies may also be triggered by proteins found in a dog’s saliva or urine so allergic individuals also have to be very careful when grooming or cleaning up after their dog.
The term hypoallergenic means that something has a low risk of triggering an allergy. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) no dog is ever completely hypoallergenic. Some breeds may be less allergenic than others, with breeds recommended for allergy sufferers generally being those with low-dander and/or non-shedding coats that leave fewer dander-covered hairs around the home.
Dogs recommended by the AKC for allergy sufferers include Afghan Hounds, Schnauzers, Bichons Frises, and Poodles. Whippets do not appear on this list. Purebred dogs are often recommended as pets for allergic owners because their genetics and therefore coats and shedding patterns can be more predictable than in dogs of mixed breeding.
Do Whippets cause allergies?
Whippets can cause allergic reactions, not the allergies themselves which will already be present in affected individuals. Allergies arise when our immune system reacts to an often harmless substance as though it’s harmful.
The exact mechanism for allergy development is not completely understood but allergies often run in families, implying a genetic influence somewhere in the process. It is also common to have multiple allergies to different substances or to have related disorders such as asthma or eczema at the same time.
In dog allergies, the principal allergen is a protein known as “Can f 1” (“canis familiaris allergen 1”), and the levels of this allergen can be measured in the environment. However, levels of Can f 1 may not always correlate directly with levels of hair or dander shedding, or with levels of allergic reaction found.
One 2012 study even found no significant difference in the amount of Can f 1 present in homes with low-allergen dog breeds compared with other dogs. Some of this may be down to dander and hair shedding variation in individual dogs and more research is needed.
Individual allergy sufferers can have greater sensitivity to one dog breed, or one individual dog, over another. Someone may be highly allergic to a breed known as a low-allergen dog for the general population or even have some tolerance for one particular high-allergen dog.
The only way to know if you will be allergic to Whippets is to consistently spend time with a Whippet and observe whether you experience allergic reactions.
Do Whippets have a lot of dander?
Whippets are not known as high-dander dogs or low-dander dogs. They probably produce an average amount of dander for their skin area.
Dander is another word for microscopic particles of skin that are shed from the skin surface of most mammals as a normal process. Some breeds of dog, and some individual dogs, have naturally higher levels of dander than others.
Health conditions can also affect the amount of dander produced. Dogs experiencing skin irritation, injury, or certain diseases might be prone to producing more dander than normal. In these cases, you should consult your vet for advice on treatment to alleviate symptoms.
Like dogs with a single coat of short hair, Whippets do smell and shed less hair around the home than some other breeds but this doesn’t necessarily translate into shedding less dander. Samoyeds, for comparison, shed copious amounts of hair but are low-dander dogs.
Cleaning your home thoroughly to remove allergens is probably the best way to limit Whippet dander in your immediate environment.
Are Whippets good for allergy sufferers?
Whippets may be the dog that some allergy sufferers can live with, but not others. Every potential dog owner with allergies will have to make their own personal decision.
People who suffer from severe allergies to dogs (e.g. experiencing severe wheezing, anaphylaxis, or other dangerous symptoms when exposed to dogs) should probably not adopt a Whippet nor any other dog. Those with milder allergies may be prepared to tolerate symptoms such as constant low-level rhinitis and sinus congestion in order to get the pet they want.
Allergy sufferers should make sure they spend some time with a dog of the breed they’re considering before they adopt their own dog. They will then have a good idea of the level of reaction they might experience and would have to live with. If you would like to adopt a Whippet, get to know some Whippets first to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Whippets tend not to appear on expert lists of either low-allergen dogs or high-allergen dogs. They may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals but not in others. If you have a mild dog allergy and are determined to adopt a Whippet, the best course of action may be to keep your house very clean and your dog well-groomed.
Keeping your home clear of allergens might involve replacing dander-attracting carpets with wood or another hard flooring, minimizing soft furnishings which retain dander and hair, and vacuuming frequently with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Regularly wipe down walls and surfaces where dander might cling. A HEPA filter air purifier can help to lower levels of allergens in the home environment and keep you breathing comfortably.
You should also keep your Whippet out of your bedroom to avoid bedding becoming contaminated with dog allergens, and consider wearing gloves and a mask with a filter when grooming or bathing your dog. Dog bedding and towels should be washed frequently at a temperature that removes dirt and allergens.
Whippets are not high-maintenance dogs and only need to be brushed once weekly to keep their coats in good condition. Every 4-6 weeks is sufficient frequency to bathe your Whippet. As an alternative to wearing protective gear, you might also get non-allergic family members or a professional dog groomer to carry out all regular grooming.
A final word…
Are Whippets hypoallergenic? In short, no.
Whippets are friendly, loyal and fun, and low-maintenance dogs who can fit in well with many households, especially those with energetic children who like to run around with their pets. Their short coats require only weekly grooming and they are not heavy shedding dogs, losing only a moderate amount of hair seasonally in springtime unless they have a health condition.
If you have mild dog allergies but still feel that a Whippet is the best pet for you, make sure you spend time around Whippets first to learn how their allergens could affect you. In some cases, you will be able to live with a Whippet as long as you take steps to keep your home very clean, with surfaces and air as clear of allergens as possible.