basenji dog lying outdoors

The 69 million American households with dogs get it—we love our canine companions. After all, it’s a relationship that’s been in the making for up to 19,000 years. Up to 20% of the global population is allergic to dogs and cats, with the latter causing twice as many reactions. That makes the idea of a hypoallergenic pet attractive. Sadly, neither Basenjis nor any canine breed fits that bill.

The truth is that there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic pet. It’s not true if anyone suggests otherwise. Besides, a reputable seller would not give such a guarantee to a buyer, especially considering the risks. However, there is more to the answer that is worth exploring.

How Allergies Work

Some people may think that Basenjis are less likely to cause allergies because they have short fur. Unfortunately, that isn’t the cause of canine or feline reactions. It’s the allergens that are the culprit. Dogs have six types of allergens that can cause runny eyes, sneezing, or even asthma attacks. They exist in the pup’s urine, saliva, and dander.

Pets produce varying amounts of these allergens, which can also account for people’s different reactions to some animals. It also explains why more individuals are allergic to cats instead of dogs. Even pets that were selectively bred for these traits, such as Labradoodles, are not completely hypoallergenic. After all, no one could predict a single person’s reaction to existing allergens.

The Special Case of Basenjis

Archaeological evidence suggests that Basenjis are an ancient breed that may go back up to 8,000 years ago. These dogs are different from other canines in many ways. They are cat-like in their behavior, something owners of Chow Chows know well. They are fastidious about grooming, something you also see in Samoyeds. However, Basenjis don’t bark. They make a yodeling-like sound.

Interestingly, DNA analysis reveals that Basenjis diverged from other breeds and followed its own genetic path. That can explain its unique behavior and traits. Time and geography separated Basenjis, allowing them to evolve differently. However, it still doesn’t provide concrete evidence of the breed being hypoallergenic. We have to return to our first premise of the presence of allergens.

Basenji in a desert
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Minimizing Allergy Concerns

The varying concentrations and types of allergens are the wild cards when it comes to allergies. The issues become more complicated when you look at the functions of some allergens. For example, the problem with cats is a protein called Fel d 1. It is also a pheromone or a vital chemical for communication between felines. Allergens with similar functions make a strong case for the fact that hypoallergenic animals don’t exist.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll find a pet that won’t trigger your allergies. However, you may find that low to non-shedding animals with short coats may aggravate them less. Basenjis shed but not as much as some breeds. We also suggest keeping your dog out of the bedrooms of any allergy sufferers. You may find running a HEPA air purifier in those rooms helpful.

As much as we hate to say it, we recommend not encouraging your Basenji to give you or your family members kisses. Remember that your pup’s saliva contains allergens. It’s worth noting that a dog that is a careful groomer will likely have a concentration of allergens on its coat.


We realize that the idea of hypoallergenic pets is a common belief. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. However, it is a myth and one that carries potential health risks for people with severe allergies. The evidence is overwhelming against the fact that any dog breed, including Basenjis, is hypoallergenic.

On a positive note, research is underway to refine other ways to treat pet allergies, such as allergen immunotherapy (AIT) or allergy shots. Other scientists have focused on ways to suppress Fel d 1 in cats. While that protein is the most common cause of these allergies, dogs have six allergens. However, if successful, it may open the door to dog ownership for everyone.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock