TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The online options are abundant: Breeders offer up a sniffle-free life to dog lovers allergic to dogs. So-called "hypoallergenic" dogs can go for thousands of dollars. But some allergists say it's all a myth.
In 2009, the Obamas famously got Portuguese water dog "Bo" because of daughter Malia's allergies. However, University of South Florida's Dr. Richard Lockey said there's just one problem.
"It can be a big scam," he said. "There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat."
Dr. Lockey once served as president of the World Allergy Organization. His research has helped develop the most commonly used allergy drugs today.
"There is a lot of evidence against the idea that there is anything such as a hypoallergenic dog," Dr. Lockey continued.
For example, a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy compared so-called "hypoallergenic" dogs to other breeds. It found no significant differences in allergen levels.
Dr. Lockey said there is a huge misunderstanding as to what makes people allergic to dogs.
"They're allergic to the dander that comes off the pelt. They're not allergic to the hair," he explained. "The hair is not allergenic. They are also allergic to the proteins the animals lick on to their skin."
He said the amount of hair a dog sheds plays no role, and there is no dog in the world that doesn't produce dander or saliva.
"That’s genetically manipulating an animal to get rid of an allergen in the pelt," Dr. Lockey said. "Can you imagine how difficult that would be?"
His goal is to educate those in the market about hypoallergenic pets before they pull the trigger.
"So you're paying huge amounts of money for something that doesn't exist and people think that's what they're getting and it’s not true," said Dr. Lockey. "A dog is a dog is a dog and a cat is a cat is a cat."