Are Great Danes Hypoallergenic: the Paradox of a Short-Haired Giant

There is no doubt that you have by now heard the phrase hypoallergenic dog breed bandied about.

Interest has grown in pets with silky hair or bouncy curls that shed little or not at all. What about your devoted albeit oversized Dane? Are Great Danes hypoallergenic?

A Great Dane is not considered hypoallergenic for several reasons. Danes are moderate shedders. They have short, hard fur which is the most aggravating type of hair for allergy sufferers. A Dane might get away with its single-layer coat if it was a small dog.

However, its giant size precludes any relief despite its relatively thin fur. On top of its hair type, Great Danes also drool moderately. With plenty of antigens shed in the hair, saliva, and urine, Great Danes cannot be called hypoallergenic.

What does a typical hypoallergenic dog look like?

According to many professionals and the stance of such credible institutions such as the AKC and the Mayo Clinic, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog. A more sensible approach is to manage your expectations regarding hypoallergenic pets.

Indeed, all dogs produce potential allergens in their saliva, urine, dander, and hair. Nevertheless, certain breeds have qualities that make them more tolerable for a greater number of sensitive people than others.

  • Short, single-layer coat combined with small size: Basenji
  • Low-shedding
  • Not prone to drooling
  • Continually-growing hair – curls like a Poodle or Doodle; long, silky strands like a Maltese, Afghan Hound, or Shih Tzu; wire-haired like Schnauzer or Affenpinscher
  • Hairless – no shedding, although these pets still produce some dander; American Hairless Terrier, Mexican Hairless, Chinese Crested
  • Clean – easy to housebreak and not prone to urinating on themselves

There are a few caveats with what you typically think of as hypoallergenic dogs.

Breeds with hair that grows continually usually need the most grooming. Allergic owners ideally would need to find someone to brush their pets daily for them.

Wire-haired dogs do not require much brushing, but they need time-consuming coat stripping every few months.

Another issue is that a few of the long-haired breeds are susceptible to urinary bladder stones and urinary tract infections. These dogs will be more likely to have urine accidents in the house or to soil their fur.

Why Great Danes Are Not Hypoallergenic

Despite their numerous virtues, Great Danes do not have a few characteristics that qualify them as hypoallergenic.

Size

Being a giant-sized dog means that a Great Dane will produce more allergens than a smaller animal. An adult male is 30 to 34 inches at the shoulder or taller and weighs 125 to 300 pounds. Even a female is huge at 28 to 32 inches tall and 100 to 145 pounds.

You can count on tremendous amounts of hair and dander as well as saliva, nasal drippings, and eye boogers. Hair and dander will cling to the floor, walls, and furniture.

Danes produce a lot of urine but are relatively clean and easily housebroken.

Shedding

Danes have short fur without much of an undercoat to speak of. Nevertheless, they shed moderately to heavily throughout the entire year. Shedding can increase in the spring months. You may also see increased hair loss due to stress, disease, or allergies.

As you will see in multiple places, hair or fur is not responsible for allergic reactions. However, fur carries a wide assortment of proteins in various forms that will act as allergy triggers.

  • Feces
  • Saliva – saliva can dry on the skin and flake off
  • Dander – dead skin cells slough with shedding hair
  • Urine – can be small droplets
  • Pollen, molds, grass

Since many times pets can have soiling on a microscopic level, sources of allergens are often invisible.

Moreover, tiny particles float in the air, making non-shedding dogs so allergy-friendly. If a dog hardly sheds, dander and other allergen-prone debris are less likely to end up in the environment.

Dander

Dander, or a collection of loose skin cells, is one of the biggest culprits involved in pet allergies. It is much more important than fur when it comes to symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, or sneezing.

This is because dander houses the proteins responsible for triggering an allergic response whereas hair itself does not.

Drooling

A Dane naturally produces more saliva than a smaller dog but also drools thanks to its facial conformation. Their degree of slobbering is between that of a sighthound and a Mastiff, as you would expect from their breeding history.

Great Danes have an elongated and deep, squared-off muzzle. More importantly, the flews overlap the lower jaw, making the lips somewhat loose around the commissure (where lips join). This causes the breed to experience moderate drooling.

However, the correct breed standard does not allow the lips to be so loose as to flutter nor does it permit the flews to collect saliva.

The result is that a Great Dane does not typically drool as much as Mastiff-types such as St Bernard or Dogue de Bordeaux.

Some Danes drool more than others. Females typically drool less than males because they are not only smaller but have a more delicate head shape with a less pronounced muzzle and flew depth.

This dog exemplifies the square muzzle of the Great Dane along with overhanging flews. You can see it as a character trait when you look at a Great Dane head-on.

What qualities make Great Danes more hypoallergenic than some?

Danes have a few characteristics that ensure they are not the worst choice for allergy sufferers.

  • Short single-layer coat – a Great Dane has a thin or sparse undercoat, meaning you do not have to worry about the copious seasonal shedding that occurs with breeds like the German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, and Norwegian Elkhound
  • Do not need much grooming

How can you own a Great Dane if you have allergies?

If you have pet allergies, it does not always mean you cannot own a Great Dane. Many people experience breed-specific allergies that seem to only flare-up in the presence of specific types of dogs or cats.

Occasionally, you can link your allergy to environmental particles in your dog’s hair rather than your pet. Still, other dog owners develop an immunity to their pets while other Great Danes will trigger their allergies.

If you tend to be hypersensitive around dogs, you can take some measures to make your life with your Great Dane more bearable.

  • Brush your dog twice a week – stimulating your dog’s skin will keep the fur healthy and will minimize loose hair and dander
  • Vacuuming daily is critical and especially after brushing your dog
  • Invest in a HEPA pet filter
  • Control your dog’s allergies to help your own – allergic dogs scratch and produce more dander
  • Designate areas in the house that are off-limits to your Great Dane – this will take some work for many Great Danes as they are very people-oriented and prefer not to be away from you
  • Focus on a high-quality diet – everyone wants to feed their dog optimally; make sure to give your Great Dane animal-sourced proteins at appropriate levels; increasing the omega-3 fatty acid content of your dog’s food should help eliminate dryness in the skin and decrease the amount of dander

Common Myths about Owning a Non-Hypoallergenic Dog

People perform various tasks to try to minimize their pet allergies, but some have questionable effectiveness.

Frequent Baths

Apart from weekly bathing with a medicated shampoo for medical problems or skin allergies, you should not bathe your Dane more than every four to eight weeks.

Increasing the bathing frequency for your dog will not necessarily reduce your sensitivity. Moreover, if you bathe your dog too frequently, you run the risk of drying out her coat, increasing the amount of dander. The exception is a soiled Great Dane or if you suspect allergen particles in your dog’s coat (i.e., grass, hay, or molds).

Sometimes, you can rinse your dog without using shampoo. Between baths, this can remove pollutants and dander without drying out your dog’s skin.

Shaving

Shaving your dog’s coat is one of the worst things you can do to your Great Dane’s skin.

Although there is a prevailing theory that removing your dog’s fur will help the shedding problem, it is not true.

Moreover, you will remove the protective properties of your Great Dane’s coat and disrupt the skin.

A body clip on such a large dog is bound to cause razor burns and a rash. Furthermore, you are likely to increase the level of dander.

Having Your Dog Live Outside

Exploring options like having your dog spend more time outside is not a myth and works splendidly for some breeds.

Unless you live in a climate where it is always between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity, living outdoors is not a viable alternative for your Great Dane. A thin coat and low body fat mean your Dane will not tolerate the cold well.

Danes do not perform great in the heat either because they are so oversized.