When my family was considering adopting a puppy, the number one priority was getting a hypoallergenic breed.
Even though no one in my family was allergic to dogs, there are several benefits to living with a hypoallergenic dog including less shedding and drooling.
While we had several hypoallergenic terrier breeds to choose from, we ultimately decided to adopt a West Highland White Terrier.
West Highland White Terriers, or Westies, are considered hypoallergenic mainly due to their minimal shedding and reduced drooling. Their double coat captures much of the loose hair and dander, while they have below average saliva production, both of which result in fewer allergens being released into the environment.
In this blog post, I’ll take a closer look at what it means for a Westie to be hypoallergenic.
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
The term ‘hypoallergenic’ tends to pop up quite frequently in discussions surrounding pet adoption, particularly when the potential pet owners have concerns about allergies.
However, it’s important to understand what this term actually means before making any decisions based on it.
In its simplest form, ‘hypoallergenic’ means ‘below average’ or ‘slightly’ allergenic. In the context of dogs, it refers to dog breeds that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions compared to others.
It’s worth noting, though, that no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic. Every breed will still produce some allergens. It’s just that some produce fewer allergens, and those are the ones typically referred to as hypoallergenic.
It’s a common misconception that hypoallergenic dogs are those that don’t shed. While shedding is certainly a factor—and we’ll talk more about this later—it’s not the only factor.
It’s not the fur itself that typically causes allergic reactions, but the dander, or skin flakes, that dogs shed along with their fur.
Even among hypoallergenic breeds, the degree to which they are hypoallergenic can vary greatly. Factors such as the dog’s diet, its overall health, how much it’s groomed, and the cleanliness of your home can all affect how many allergens a dog produces.
In the next section, we’ll dive deeper into what makes a dog hypoallergenic.
What Makes a Dog Hypoallergenic?
When you’re thinking about bringing a dog into a home where allergies are a concern, it’s important to understand the factors that make a dog hypoallergenic.
While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, certain breeds, including the West Highland White Terrier, are known to produce fewer allergens, making them a better fit for households with sensitive individuals.
Dander and Allergens
The primary culprit behind allergic reactions to dogs is not the fur itself, but rather the microscopic flakes of skin, known as dander, which dogs naturally shed.
Dander is easily airborne, and it is what carries the proteins that can trigger allergies. Dogs that shed less dander, as a rule, tend to be more hypoallergenic.
Another important consideration is the dog’s saliva. All dogs, regardless of breed, produce certain proteins in their saliva and urine that can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
When dogs lick their fur, these proteins can become airborne as the saliva dries, increasing the likelihood of triggering allergies.
Size of the Breed
Interestingly, the size of the dog can play a role in how hypoallergenic it is. Simply put, smaller dogs have less skin and, therefore, produce less dander.
Additionally, smaller dogs also produce less saliva and urine. This is one reason why smaller breeds like Westies are often considered a good choice for people with allergies.
However, while the size of the dog can influence the amount of allergens they produce, it’s important to remember that individual dogs within a breed can vary, and lifestyle factors such as diet and grooming can also significantly affect allergen production.
Up next, we will take a closer look at whether Westies shed and how this contributes to their hypoallergenic nature.
Do Westies Shed?
One of the major questions potential Westie owners often ask is about their shedding habits. Shedding, after all, directly impacts the number of allergens that a dog releases into its environment.
So, do Westies shed?
Yes, West Highland White Terriers do shed, but less so than many other breeds. They possess what’s known as a ‘double coat’ – a soft, dense undercoat beneath a rougher, protective outer coat.
While Westies do not shed excessively, they do have a shedding cycle where they lose and regrow hair from their undercoat. This typically happens once or twice a year, often in line with seasonal changes.
A unique characteristic of Westies’ double-coat is that it helps to control the amount of hair and dander they shed into the environment. The outer coat catches much of the loose undercoat, preventing it from becoming airborne.
Regular grooming helps to remove this loose hair before it has the chance to shed, thereby reducing the number of allergens in your home environment.
However, it’s essential to remember that while Westies do shed less than many other breeds, they are not completely non-shedding. And as we’ve discussed, the dander that can be released with shedding is often the trigger for allergies.
Therefore, although Westies are considered a hypoallergenic breed, they may not be suitable for all individuals with severe dog allergies.
Up next, we’ll discuss whether Westies drool and how this might impact their hypoallergenic status.
Do Westies Drool?
Drooling is another factor to consider when evaluating a dog’s hypoallergenic status. The proteins that can trigger allergic reactions are present not only in a dog’s dander but also in its saliva.
Therefore, breeds that drool heavily may not be the best fit for allergy sufferers.
So, where do Westies stand in this respect?
West Highland White Terriers, compared to other breeds, are not known to be heavy droolers. This is partly due to their mouth shape and size.
Breeds with looser, more pendulous lips and larger jowls, such as Saint Bernards or Bulldogs, tend to drool more because their mouth structure makes it harder for them to retain saliva.
Westies, however, have relatively small, tight lips, which generally leads to less drooling.
Less drooling equates to fewer allergens being spread around the house through the saliva. When dogs lick themselves, the saliva (and the allergens it carries) can dry on their fur and become airborne. Hence, less drooling could be beneficial for those with allergies.
However, it’s important to understand that individual dogs can vary, and some Westies might drool more than others, particularly around meal times or when they’re feeling particularly excited or anxious.
In our next section, we’ll provide some valuable tips for allergy sufferers who are considering adding a Westie to their family.
Tips for Allergy Sufferers
If you or someone in your household has allergies but is keen on sharing a home with a Westie, don’t despair.
There are strategies you can employ to reduce allergens and make cohabitating with a West Highland White Terrier a more comfortable experience. Here are some tips:
Regular grooming is perhaps the most crucial step in reducing allergens. As we’ve discussed, Westies have a double coat that can trap shed hair and dander. Regular brushing can help remove this trapped dander before it becomes airborne.
Additionally, bathing your Westie every 4-6 weeks using anti-allergen dog shampoo can help reduce the allergen load further. Just be careful not to bathe them too often, as it can dry out their skin and potentially lead to more dander.
Maintaining a clean home environment is key. Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture regularly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which is specifically designed to trap small particles like dander.
Additionally, washing your pet’s bedding regularly can also reduce the allergen count in your home.
Allergy Medication and Treatment
It’s also essential to manage the allergy sufferer’s symptoms. This could include using over-the-counter or prescription allergy medication, undergoing immunotherapy (allergy shots), or using air purifiers to remove allergens from the environment.
Spend Time Before You Commit
Before bringing a Westie (or any dog) into a home with an allergic individual, it’s advisable to spend some time with the breed if possible.
This can give you an idea of how the allergic person might react and can help inform your decision.
While these tips can’t guarantee an entirely allergen-free experience, they can go a long way in making a home with a Westie more comfortable for allergy sufferers.
Hypoallergenic Westies Conclusion
Understanding a breed’s hypoallergenic status is a vital step when considering dog ownership, especially for individuals or families with allergy sufferers.
While no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, West Highland White Terriers, commonly known as Westies, are often considered a good choice for those with allergies due to their minimal shedding and lower drooling tendencies.
In the end, every Westie is unique, and the joy they can bring to a household is immeasurable. So, if you’re considering adding a Westie to your family, take the time to understand their needs and your own. That way, you can create a happy, healthy home for everyone involved.