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Being allergic to dogs is, at its worst, incredibly dangerous, but at its best, still annoying, especially if you’re looking to adopt or buy a dog anyway.
Your search has brought you to a bunch of small, fluffy dogs labeled “hypoallergenic,” which folks claim may work for you or your family despite your dog allergies. But this may end up being even more annoying if you were looking for something more along the lines of a Pitbull and less like a Maltese.
Are Pitbulls Hypoallergenic?
Pitbulls are not hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic means the breed has characteristics that reduce the likelihood of causing an allergic reaction in humans. Because Pitbulls produce a moderate to high amount of the most common dog allergens (dander, fur, saliva, and urine), they are not considered “hypoallergenic.”
“Hypoallergenic” is an often misunderstood and, therefore, misused, word. It’s more of a scale with degrees of success than it is the black and white “hypoallergenic” vs. “not hypoallergenic” label you often hear about.
When applied to dogs, the mechanics of labeling them as “hypoallergenic” become even more complicated.
For example, both Poodles and Maltese are labeled hypoallergenic while Pitbulls and St. Bernards are not. Should be pretty clean-cut, right?
But Poodles’ curly hair makes them more hypoallergenic than Maltese, who have straight hair. But the Malteses’ small stature makes it more hypoallergenic than most Poodles, who are larger.
And St. Bernards are bigger drool a lot more than Pitbulls, making them less hypoallergenic than Pitties. But St. Bernards’s double coats will hold their shed-fur on their bodies rather than dropping off all over the house like a Pitbull, making them less hypoallergenic St. Bernards
And neither one of them is considered “hypoallergenic!”
And it all depends on the severity and reaction of the person’s allergies too! A severely allergic person may have issues with even the most hypoallergenic dog while someone else with a mild allergy could get away with a Pitbull by following a few simple steps.
All of that to say, “hypoallergenic” is not as simple of a label to give or not give to a breed of dog than people realize.
There’s a ton of information to unpack, but at the end of the day, Pitbulls have no outstanding breed characteristics that make them any less likely to cause allergic reactions in humans than any other breeds.
In fact, Pitbulls are prone to skin conditions, licking, and drooling, which makes them even more likely to trigger someone’s allergies.
That said, there are some ways you can reduce the number of allergens your dog sheds on you and in and around your house. So let’s dive right in.
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean In Dogs?
Hypoallergenic describes something that has innate characteristics that make it less likely to cause an allergic reaction. In dogs, this most commonly means that they are bald or have hair instead of fur but also that they do not drool or lick much and are easy to house train.
“Hypoallergenic” is defined as “having little likelihood of causing an allergic response.”
You probably most commonly hear the word “hypoallergenic” when it’s referring to dogs. But it’s in fact a common word used to describe many of the products and plants that we interact with on a daily basis.
If you pick up a bottle of shampoo in your shower or read the back of a bottle of lotion you may see something along the lines of “naturally crafted to be hypoallergenic and free of parabens and sulfates.”
Humans are commonly allergic to parabens and sulfates, so products that avoid them and other common allergens can be referred to as “hypoallergenic” – because they are less likely to cause allergic reactions in people.
These same rules apply when discussing hypoallergenic dog breeds. It means yes, this breed has characteristics that make it less likely to cause an allergic reaction than other breeds.
These characteristics generally physically reduce the amount or location of where they shed not just their fur but all of their most common allergens.
People with dog allergies have an overactive immune system that is causing an adverse physical response to what are in fact harmless proteins that the dog’s body produces in its oils and fluids.
People are not allergic to dog’s fur. Instead, they are allergic to the proteins found in the oil that coats a dog’s fur. These oils also coat the dog’s dander. When their fur and dander fall out around the house, they leave behind their allergic-reaction-causing oils on the fur and dander.
These substances, like hair and dander, that a person then encounters that cause an allergic reaction are called allergens.
Allergens contain the proteins that the person’s immune system is incorrectly responding to.
People with allergies to dogs can generally pretty easily avoid the problem by just avoiding coming into physical contact with dogs by not having them themselves and avoiding them in public. However, their allergens are more difficult to avoid.
Your dog is always leaving behind their fur, dander, saliva, and urine, their “allergens.” A dog-allergic person who is avoiding physical contact with a dog could still encounter traces of these in the air, in the house, or around the yard.
This is why fur, dander, saliva, and urine are the four main causes of allergic reactions to dogs in people.
Therefore, hypoallergenic dog breeds have some physical or behavioral characteristics that make them less likely to cause allergic reactions in humans.
Why Aren’t Pitbulls Hypoallergenic?
Dog breeds that are called hypoallergenic must have physical and behavioral characteristics that reduce human exposure to their fur, dander, saliva, and urine. Some dogs may have hair or seldom drool, which reduces the number of allergens they shed, but no breed is allergen-free, no breed is 100% hypoallergenic.
Nothing in the world is purely hypoallergenic, meaning it could not cause an allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to water, so it’s fair to expect that dogs could always cause an allergic reaction to someone, which is why I don’t like the “yes, hypoallergenic, won’t cause an allergic reaction” label – it’s just way too broad.
But let’s get back to Pitbulls, specifically, and figure out the degree to which they are and are not hypoallergenic.
I’ve assembled the list below of the most common characteristics of hypoallergenic dog breeds and explained how Pitbulls stack up against those traits. The traits below need to be assessed together, holistically, to determine the degree to which a dog is hypoallergenic and if it’s a good fit for a person with dog allergies.
And keep in mind that “hypoallergenic” is a sliding scale, not a black and white label.
Hair, Wire, and Hairless
If a dog has hair instead of fur, that’s usually enough for most people to go ahead and slap the “hypoallergenic” label on their dog, but it’s of course more complicated than that.
Hair is distinct from fur in dogs and all animals in that hair grows continuously from the base without falling out while fur grows to a certain length and falls out, replaced by new fur.
This means that the allergy-causing oils that a hypoallergenic dog’s skin produces that also coat each and every strand of hair, generally, stay on the dog until they get a hair cut rather than falling out all around the house when the dog with fur sheds.
This means that a person who has a dog with hair can more easily control the spread of the allergens around the house, making dogs with hair more hypoallergenic than dogs with fur.
Now, all you people out there who have run a brush through your hair know that hair does, in fact, shed some. Dogs with hair like poodles and Maltese, DO still shed a small amount, just not nearly as much as dogs with fur.
Furthermore, dogs with tightly curled hair are more hypoallergenic than dogs with straight hair.
Remember the Maltese and the poodle I mentioned earlier?
It’s just not the fact that a dog has fur that’s causing issues, it’s that their fur is coated with oils that spread around the house when they shed.
Dogs with hair shed too, but when a dog with tightly curled hair, like the poodle, sheds, the hairs get caught in their tight coat rather than fall to the floor.
When a dog with straight hair, like the Maltese, sheds, the hair just falls out because there are no curls to hold the hair together.
This makes poodles more hypoallergenic than Maltese because you can concentrate most of your exposure to their hair to grooming day.
Or maybe not….we’ll come back to the poodle and the Maltese example later.
Dogs with wiry coats like Schnauzers have hair that’s similar to the hair on poodles and Maltese. It does not fall out regularly like fur but instead mostly stays on the dog until it is brushed or stripped away.
Hair and wire coats are beneficial because they give owners time to bring their dog outside and isolate when the dog’s hair comes off, unlike with fur, which just falls out when it’s ready.
Bald dogs completely remove the hair/fur allergen from the equation. Since they have little to no hair or fur to shed, all of the oils that their body produces stays on their skin rather than falling out and contaminating your house with their fur or hair.
How The Pitbull Stacks Up
Pitbulls have a single-layer coat made of fur, not hair. Their fur, therefore, sheds pretty much constantly but does shed more frequently in the spring and early summer when they are blowing out their coats.
They do have particularly short coats among dog breeds, which means that you will need to control a smaller overall quantity of hair than a St. Bernard. However, that short coat isn’t all good.
Similar to the poodle with curly hair, the Saint Bernard’s long, double coat will get tangled up with the spent fur, staying on the dog’s body until it’s brushed.
Your Pitbull’s fur is just going to fall straight out wherever it sheds because there’s nothing to hold it onto its body.
Healthy, oily skin
This is where we talk about dander, another commonly misunderstood allergen in dogs.
Again, people are not allergic to the dander itself, per se. Rather, they are allergic to the oils that coat the dander. When they come in contact with the dander, it’s the oils that are on them that cause the reaction.
Breeds that are prone to healthy, oily skin, who, therefore, are less likely to develop dander that sheds around the house, are more hypoallergenic than breeds with dry skin.
How The Pitbull Stacks Up
Unfortunately, Pitbulls are prone to skin allergy atopy. This means that they are more likely to develop immune disorders that make them more likely to develop skin allergies.
These allergies can cause itchy rashes on your Pitbull’s body, which encourage them to scratch themselves, excessively shedding skin cells and fur.
These conditions can dry out your Pitbull’s skin, causing them to produce more dander. And unfortunately, many common treatments further dry out your Pitbull’s skin, exacerbating your allergies while you treat theirs.
This is exactly what you don’t want if you’re allergic to Pitbulls.
This is simply a matter of economies of scale. Bigger dogs have more skin and produce more allergens than small dogs. Thus, smaller dogs are typically more hypoallergenic than large dogs.
How The Pitbull Stacks Up
Averaging about 45lbs-50lbs, Pitbulls are firmly planted in the “medium” sized dog category. Their coats are similar to Chihuahuas, but considering they weigh about 10 times more, you can expect about 10 times more shedding because of their size.
However, they are still about one-third the size of a St. Bernard, so that’s ⅓ less overall fur, so Pitbulls definitely could be worse in this department.
Breeds that are prone to drooling are less hypoallergenic than dogs that are not. Because many of the reaction-causing proteins are also found in dog’s saliva, dogs that drool are more likely to leave behind allergens.
Dog’s that have shorter snouts are more prone to respiratory issues, snoring, coughing, and sneezing than dogs with longer noses.
This means that they are more likely to spread their saliva and mucous to their owners and around the house, to be encountered later on and cause a reaction.
So keeping it all inside is a bonus.
How The Pitbull Stacks Up
Pitbulls drool more than the average dog, though they are certainly not among the top offenders.
Pitbulls have relatively droopy upper lips that struggle to tightly seal their large, wide mouths and short snouts closed.
This is common among dogs with this particular head shape. It also, unfortunately, means that your Pitbull is more likely to leave drool and dribble around the house than other breeds.
Similar to drooling. Your dog’s saliva is an allergen that can cause a reaction if your dog licks you.
People who call dogs “hypoallergenic” often only think about the dog’s hair and are surprised to find that they break out in a rash after having kissy time with their new poodle.
How The Pitbull Stacks Up
Pitbulls are an extremely licky breed of dog. They bond closely with their owners are love to show affection by licking, more so even than other breeds of dogs.
The fact that they’ll try to cover you with spittle, which causes an allergic reaction is another big point against Pitbulls.
Easy To House Train
This one may be surprising, but dogs that are easier to house train are more hypoallergenic than dogs that are notoriously difficult to house train.
This is because, once again, urine is an allergen. If you are frequently running into puddles around your house, you are more likely to have a reaction even if you have a dog with hair.
Dogs that you can quickly train to do their business outside in a designated space are better options for people with dog allergies.
How The Pitbull Stacks Up
Pitbulls do pretty well in this category! They are not stubborn by nature, which can make it difficult for other breeds to learn to hold their business until they are outside.
That plus the fact that Pitbulls are a highly intelligent breed who are in tune with their owner’s feelings puts them on the higher-end of the house-training scale.
Are Pitbulls Hypoallergenic?
As you can see, they don’t stack up well in terms of physical or behavioral characteristics that would reduce the amount of exposure you’d have their allergens, so no, they are not very hypoallergenic and certainly can’t be called a hypoallergenic breed.
However, it’s a scale, so if you have mild allergies or are still considering getting a Pitbull, there are some things you can to do help cut back on the amount of allergens you’ll need to deal with.
Can I Make My Pitbull Hypoallergenic?
You can make your Pitbull more hypoallergenic, but Pitbulls are a breed that is especially prone to cause allergies, so you won’t be able to make it completely “hypoallergenic.” You can make your Pitbull more hypoallergenic by controlling your exposure to their fur, dander, saliva, and urine.
Fur and Dander
Getting control of your Pitbull’s shedding to control dander is the first and best way to confront dealing with their allergens. Start from the outside and work your way closer in towards your Pitbull.
Start by cleaning your house. Really cleaning your house. If you have carpets, consider getting them professionally steam cleaned. Maybe have them do the furniture too while you’re at it.
Keep your house fur-free by picking up a robot vacum and scheduling it to run every day at a certain time.
Keep your air filters clear by cleaning them out often.
Consider picking up a special air filter like this one specifically designed to reduce the amount of fur and dander in your home.
Keep your Pitbull’s bedding clean by washing it regularly. If they are allowed on the furniture, throw a blanket or a sheet over their spot and encourage them only to lay there so you can isolate their fur and dander to that one spot.
Your house needs to be as clean as you can and regularly maintained if you’re going to have a Pitbull inside with a person with allergies. Depending on the severity of the reaction, it may not be possible to have a Pitbull.
Next is the fur and dander on your Pitbull.
You’ll want to pick up a slicker brush like this one and brush them out regularly. Be sure to do this outside or you’ll undo all your hard work cleaning your house!
You can brush your Pitbull with this brush or a similar one as needed, but I recommend doing so at least twice a day to ensure as much loose fur and as possible comes off while you are outside.
Baths are another great way to remove excess fur and dander from your Pitbull but be warned that most dog shampoos are designed to strip grease and oils from your Pitbull’s coat.
If you so do too much, you can dry out your Pitbull’s skin and fur, which will actually make the shedding and dander worse.
Pick up an extremely mild puppy shampoo or just give your Pittie a bath without using any shampoo. The water and agitation alone will help to remove much of the excess fur and dander without any unnecessary chemicals.
If you’re using regular dog shampoo, you shouldn’t wash your Pitbull more than once a week with it.
If your Pitbull has a dander problem, they may be suffering from allergies themselves. If that’s the case, it’s best to reach out to your vet.
But if it’s just dander and your Pitbull isn’t showing any other signs of an allergic reaction, you can treat their dry skin by applying coconut oil.
Coconut oil is a safe and inexpensive oil containing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to help treat any minor infections that may be drying out your Pitbull’s fur.
Just apply it all over your Pitbull’s skin before giving them a bath, especially in the spots with the worst dander but be sure to cover them all over.
Let it sit for 5 minutes to give the oil time to soak into their skin and hair and then proceed with the bath like you normally would.
Another important and often overlooked factor that could be causing your Pitbull to have excess dander is if they are dehydrated. Make sure your Pitbull is drinking roughly an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.
If they are getting less than this, you can encourage them to drink more by dropping in a splash of sodium-free chicken broth in with their water to encourage them to drink more fluids.
Fur and dander are the main culprits when it comes to Pitbull allergens, but saliva and urine play a big factor as well.
Controlling where your Pitbull’s saliva ends up is actually a more challenging step than you may have expected. The main instances where people with dog allergies encounter a Pitbull’s saliva is when the Pitbull is licking, either you or your furniture, or if the Pitbull is drooling.
If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction after your Pitbull licks you, you’ll need to train your Pitbull not to lick you anymore.
It may sound sad but it’s a necessary and worthwhile step to take in order to save the relationship. Like all training, this is a two-step process of teaching them what not to do and giving them something else to do instead.
First, you just have to stop them from licking you. If they do it, tell them “No” and pull your hand away. You don’t need to reprimand them, especially if you are teaching them this new rule for the first time.
Just telling your Pitbull “no, don’t lick me” absolutely is not enough to teach them this rule. They love you and they want to show you affection!
So, step two: give them something else to do. After you’ve said “No,” encourage your Pitbull to do a different behavior instead. You can have them sit nicely and then you can go in for a head scratch, carefully avoiding their mouth and tongue.
Or you can get more elaborate and have them roll over for a belly rub, again keeping their mouth far away from your skin.
How you approach this depends on the severity of the allergen. It may be that you’ll need to tag someone else in to help give them the positive reinforcement your Pittie will need to stop licking you.
But if you’re unable to have physical contact with the Pitbull, it may not be a good fit.
Licking you is one pretty straightforward thing you can get ahead of. But if your Pitbull likes to lick the couch, pillows, or carpet, you may not even realize where the source of the allergens is coming from.
You’ll need to observe your Pitbull closely to find out if they are licking the furniture in your house, leaving behind allergens that you will encounter later on.
Do not think that just because their saliva has dried up that you are safe from experiencing an allergic reaction to it. Even after it has dried, it can still flake off and even go into the air like an aerosol, becoming an even more invasive source of allergens.
It will be difficult to treat this unless you know where your Pitbull is licking. Once you have identified where your Pitbull is licking, you can treat it with this bitter apple spray from Amazon.
It tastes bitter to the dogs and will discourage them from licking.
It’s a good idea to pair this with a new toy or stuffed animal that your Pitbull is allowed to lick.
They are probably looking to give themselves some comfort and self-soothe, so removing it entirely may not be good for your Pitbull and will likely cause them just to go find something else to lick.
Pitbulls are prone to drooling, but not to the extent that Saint Bernards or Irish Setters do. However, if you have allergies, you may need to account for the amount of drool that your Pitbull does make.
Making sure you have a towel handy to dry off your Pitbull’s face after a walk or playtime is a good first start.
Dogs drool more after they have exercised, so wiping it off before they come inside and before it can get on you is the first line of defense.
You can control most of drooly places in your home by strategically laying down towels. Put a towel around your Pitbull’s food and water bowl, since dogs tend to drool more when they are eating and drinking.
Likewise, dogs often drool more when they are going for a car ride, so be prepared with a washable towel or blanket that you can put them on to absorb the excess drool.
If all else fails, you can buy them a bid or bandana to tie around their neck. This can help absorb any drool before it lands on your floor, carpet, or a part of your Pitbull that you are going to touch later.
Unless you have a puppy or a Pitbull that has special needs, you should not have much of a problem with urine inside the house.
If you do, it is important to housetrain your Pitbull. This is not just important if you have allergies, but rather it is a matter of health and hygiene. Ammonia in dog urine can build up over time and is caustic to people.
I won’t go into all the many different ways you can house train your Pitbull. If you want a quick tutorial this video is full of useful tips and adorable pittie puppies:
If your Pitbull has a habit of peeing in the house in the same place it may be that they think it’s OK to pee there. If it smells like pee, they are likely to keep going back to it, and keep in mind that dogs can smell much better than we can. Even after a thorough cleaning with regular products, your Pitbull may still be able to smell the pee and think that they should go there again.
Pick up a bottle of this enzyme cleaner to completely eliminate the smell of urine while you continue to work to bring them outside to do their business.
You may also be encountering urine on your Pitbull after they’ve been outside to do their business.
Make sure that you are giving your Pitbull a few minutes to walk around the yard or to continue your walk on the leash with them after they have peed to ensure that everything has made its way out and your Pitbull is as dry as can be.
The word hypoallergenic is more of a sliding scale rather than a label. Some dogs are very hypoallergenic and some dogs are not very hypoallergenic, but no dogs are completely hypoallergenic.
This is because all dogs secrete the oils that people may be allergic to. Even dogs with hair, while less likely to shed these oils around your house, can cause allergic reactions to people who have allergies to dogs.
These oils are found not only in dog’s hair but also in their dander, saliva, and urine. Since all dogs have these to some degree, no dog could ever be 100% hypoallergenic.
Pitbulls are particularly not hypoallergenic. While it may be easy to control their urine, they do shed quite a lot, giving allergens a lot of opportunities to leach out into your house.
They are also prone to dry skin which will increase their dander production.
Couple that with their big, goofy, drooly mouths and you have a triple threat of a potential allergic reaction.
If you have mild allergies and are considering a Pitbull, you can do a few things to help reduce the effects of these allergens by keeping them clean and making sure you put as much distance between yourself and their fur, dander, saliva, and urine as possible.
But it is probably the best option for both your and the Pitbull’s long-term happiness if you consider a more hypoallergenic dog breed.
Other Breeds To Consider
If you are a fan of Pitbulls but are now reconsidering bringing one into your life knowing that they are not hypoallergenic, you may be considering other breeds of dog.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to recommend that you get a Maltese instead. Below are some hypoallergenic options to consider instead of a Pitbull:
Schnauzers come in three different sizes, the giant size weighing in at over 100 lb.
Schnauzers are smart, trainable, and athletic dogs that are a better option for people with dog allergies than Pitties.
These strikingly handsome little dogs are confident and playful but are also famously quiet and clean. They have the energy and character of a Pitbull but none of the issues with fur.
These strong, fearless dogs are a courageous and hypoallergenic Pitbull substitute if you are looking for a tough guard dog.
Very smart and, just like Pitbulls, quickly devoted it to their families. They make a great family dog and come in a variety of sizes and colors well make everyone happy.
Portuguese and Irish Water Dogs
Both of these water dogs and many other water dogs in the Spaniel group are outgoing, athletic, energetic dogs that can spend the whole day outside running just as easily as they snuggle up on the couch at the end of the day.
Most water dogs, including Poodles, have hair rather than fur, which makes them more hypoallergenic than Pitbulls.
Pit bulls are wonderful dogs who have a lot going for them, but if you are allergic, they’re probably going to make you sneeze!