Huskies are beautiful dogs. They have gorgeous eyes, fluffy curled tails, and are known for their ability to withstand cold temperatures as sled dogs, and for their distinctive howling. In 2021, Siberian Huskies were the 15th most popular breed of dog within the United States.
But are Siberian Huskies hypoallergenic? Sadly, the answer is no. This post will cover what it means to have a hypoallergenic dog, where pet allergies come from, and how this relates to huskies and husky mixes.
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What Makes a Dog Hypoallergenic Or Not?
While I’m not allergic to dogs, I am pretty allergic to cats, but had never dug into exactly why pet allergies exist.
Huskies are not hypoallergenic. But what does it even mean to be hypoallergenic?
The Origin of the Term “Hypoallergenic”
We wrote about this in our post about whether Corgis are hypoallergenic (spoiler alert: they are not).
If your buzzword detector went off when you heard “hypoallergenic”… congrats! You’re right. The word originated somewhere between the 1940s and 1950s and was the invention of cosmetic companies. The marketing promise was that these new “hypoallergenic” makeup lines were suitable for people with more sensitive skin.
But this word was made up by advertisers, rather than the medical community.
And what does the name itself tell us? The second half, “allergenic” means “causing allergies”. No surprise there.
But the first part, “hypo” is a Latin prefix meaning “below” or “under”. It does not mean “none” or “zero”. Therefore, hypoallergenic means less allergenic.
Huskies are not hypoallergenic, meaning they are not “less allergy-causing” than most breeds. If anything, they might be more allergy-causing, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The word “hypoallergenic” itself means “causing a less-than-normal amount of allergies”. It does not mean “allergy free”.
And, the Allergy and Asmtha Foundation of America agrees: there is no such thing as a totally allergy-free dog.
Hypoallergenic dogs refer to dogs that are less likely to cause allergies in people. While people with service dogs often have hypoallergenic breeds, this does not mean that they cannot still cause allergies. People with pet allergies, especially people with severe allergies, can still have allergenic reactions to so-called hypoallergenic dog breeds.
There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic Husky.
What Determines How “Hypoallergenic” a Dog Is?
To be able to answer this question, we need to get some gross science out of the way first. Where do pet allergies come from?
The short answer is pet dander, which is dead skin, but also might include urine and drool. Some people have allergies to the proteins present in pet dander. This isn’t an allergy to the fur itself, but dogs that shed more fur end up shedding more dander.
And boy, do Huskies shed a lot of fur!
Why Do People Have Pet Allergies?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, there are 69 million people in the United States who currently own at least one dog. And, 70% of households in the US own either a dog or a cat.
That means that pet allergy suffers likely aren’t the majority. But it turns out that they aren’t a small minority, either.
A 2018 study cited by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that somewhere between 10-20% of people have a pet allergy.
Of course, some people with pet allergies choose to live with pets anyway, depending on how severe the allergy is. But for people with severe allergies, it might deter them from owning pets, or at least owning certain breeds (like Siberian Huskies).
Signs of allergies include all the typical allergy responses that you’d get from plant allergies like pollen. For example:
- Itchy nose and eyes
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Asmtha Attack
- And other medical issues from prolonged exposure or severe allergies, for example, fatigue
Why do people have an allergic reaction to dogs, though? The reason is not because of their fur, but because of their skin.
Much like humans, dogs’ skin has dead skin cells on it. These dead skin flakes are known as dander, and the protein within these dead skin cells can produce an allergic reaction.
Add salvia to the mix (from dogs licking their fur), plus urine, and whatever pollen they track in… and its no wonder that some people have an allergic reaction!
Thinking about dead skin cells is pretty gross, but it’s not because there’s something wrong with your dog. All dogs shed skin cells, and so do people. In fact, the dander generated from human skin cells might even create allergies in dogs!
Allergic reactions can go both ways. It all depends on what each individual is sensitive to. So it’s a completely natural thing, even if it is a bit gross. If you want to learn more about the protein types in dander, click to read this 2012 study.
Why Do Some Dogs Cause More Allergies Than Others?
We know that pet dander is dead skin cells, drool, and pee. We know that some people are allergic to the proteins in pet dander. And we instinctively know that pet skin and pet fur are related.
But pet fur is not what people are directly allergic to.
Instead, pet fur is attached to the skin, and thus, to pet dander (skin cells). Dogs that shed more fur are going to shed more dander along with it.
Hypoallergenic dogs refer to dogs that shed less than other dogs. The less a dog sheds, the lower the potential allergen exposure. Dogs that are completely devoid of dander do not exist, so even hypoallergenic dogs have some amount of allergy potential.
Unfortunately for people with allergies, Siberian Huskies shed a lot of fur, so huskies cannot be considered hypoallergenic.
Can I Avoid Allergies By Cleaning a Lot?
No. This isn’t just a matter of vacuuming like crazy. Skin cells are very small and are hard to get rid of. This is especially true for fabric surfaces like clothing, carpeting, or upholstered furniture. If you vacuum or sweep, you will be getting rid of some of the pet dander, but you will also be stirring some into the air.
Once it’s in your home, it’s not as simple as just scooping up all the fur that your dog has shed. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t clean up though! It just won’t fully eliminate the problem.
What Determines How Much a Dog Sheds?
This is a complicated question! You could write a whole book about different types of dog coats and why some shed more than others. The simple answer is that it depends on the dog’s breed history.
Some dogs were bred for warm climates, some were bred for colder climates. Others were bred for spending long periods of time outside, herding and guarding animals. Some dogs were bred for spending lots of time in the water.
Each breed of dog has characteristics that serve its original “purpose” as a breed (although we love dogs just as they are!). Each dog’s coat is suited for a certain environment the same way that you pick out a winter jacket or a spring rain coat to protect yourself against the elements.
Poodles, which are famously a hypoallergenic breed, have a single coat and do not shed much.
Huskies, on the other hand, originated in colder climates and need to be able to spend time outside (and even sleep outside!) without getting cold.
To manage the frigid temperatures, huskies have a double coat that holds in heat, and keeps out water, wind, and UV rays.
Do Huskies Shed a Lot?
Oh yes. Huskies have a double coat that helps protect them from the elements.
Double coats have two layers that each serve a separate purpose. The top coat keeps out water and blocks UV rays. It has long, straight, thick hairs. Think of this like the outer shell of a winter coat that keeps the wind and wetness out.
The undercoat is made of fluffy, soft fur that serves as insulation. Back to our winter jacket analogy, the undercoat is like the goose down (or synthetic down) that takes up space and provides a layer of insulation. The top coat keeps you dry, the undercoat keeps you warm.
This double coat is why huskies look “fluffy”. This double coat is also why Siberian Huskies shed so much.
By the way, insulation can work both ways: keeping heat in, and also keeping heat out. While Huskies can be prone to overheating in the summer in very hot areas, it is a mistake to shave their coat. They do naturally lose some of their coat in the summer, and this can be helped out with proper grooming.
Huskies (and other double-coated breeds) shed all year round. And then on top of that, they shed even more when the seasons change. So twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, expect even more fur coming out of your pet’s coat.
Some of the huskies I’ve known would shed so much that you could grab entire fistfuls of fur out of their coat. Not pulling out fur that was still attached, mind you, but clumps that were no longer fully attached, but still “stuck” in the coat because of how dense the fur was.
The answer to the original question is yes, Siberian Huskies shed a LOT. You will have to be diligent about grooming them, as well as vacuuming your house. This is especially true in the high-shedding parts of the year.
Because Siberian Huskies shed a lot, they are not hypoallergenic. This makes them not a great choice for allergy sufferers. This is not a judgement about the breed’s character. They are fantastic, smart, and capable dogs. They just create a lot of dander, and that can be challenging for allergic dog owners.
Can I Get a Husky If I’m Allergic?
If you are severely allergic to pet dander, and dog dander in particular, you should consider getting a different breed of dog. Huskies shed a lot, due to their double coats. This will spread a lot of dander around your home, furniture, and clothing. This dander is what triggers your allergies.
Huskies are a great breed of dog. The AKC describes them as “loyal, mischievous, and outgoing”. They are also capable working dogs, known for their sled dog abilities.
If You Want a Husky Anyway, Here’s How to Manage Allergies
If you are undeterred by the amount of fur shed by Siberian Huskies, here are some allergy mitigation strategies:
- Regularly groom your dog with a brush meant to pull out the undercoat as it sheds. For example, the “Furminator” brush which I use on my dog.
- Regularly vacuum and sweep your home.
- Because dander sticks better on fabric surfaces, houses with wood, tile, or other hard flooring may be easier to keep clean of dander than houses with carpets. But unlike carpeting, hard surfaces don’t “hold in” dander, so you need to stay on top of sweeping and vacuuming.
- To reduce the amount of dander circulating in the house, you can install a HEPA filter.
- Regularly wash your dog’s bed, as well as cleaning other surfaces that they spend a lot of time on, such as a sofa.
- Shedding can also become worse if your dog has poor nutrition, is stressed, or has medical issues such as food allergies or parasites. Make sure your dog is fed a good diet and gets regular veterinary care.
- You can also bathe your dog to help with allergies, but this is not a cure-all. If you over-bathe your dog, you may cause skin problems, the same way that over-washing your own hair strips it of natural oils and causes it to overproduce oil.
- And of course, there are plenty of over-the-counter allergy medications to lessen the affects of allergies on humans.
Breeds to Consider Instead
If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. If it’s more than you think you can reasonably commit to, there are other dog breeds that are considered to be hypoallergenic. As you now know, this doesn’t mean they’re allergy-free, but that they shed a lot less. This means that it won’t be such an uphill battle against dander, and you will suffer fewer allergies, or possibly, no allergies at all.
A list of popular hypoallergenic dog breeds include:
- Afghan Hounds
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Italian Greyhound
- Lhasa Apso
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Scottish Terrier
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
This list is not complete, as there are nearly 60 purebred dog breeds who are considered hypoallergenic, plus several “designer” dog breeds. There are also Husky mixes that you might find at a dog shelter or rescue.
In either of these cases, a Siberian Husky crossed with a hypoallergenic breed will create a dog that is less allergenic than a husky, because of the influence of the hypoallergenic parent. There’s no guarantee that such a dog will be allergy-free for you, but they will be less allergy-causing than a purebred Siberian Husky.
If you are not sure how you will respond to a certain dog breed, you can visit a breeder, and/or get a general allergen test.