Is There Really Such a Thing as a Hypoallergenic Pet?

pets

There are cat people and there are dog people. Cat people love the playfulness of a kitten and the low-maintenance of an adult cat, while dog people spend a Saturday playing Frisbee with their best friend, or snuggling up to watch TV. For whatever reason why someone is a dog person or a cat person, one factor that often influences preference is allergies. Some people are allergic to cats, others dogs, some both. For a dog or cat lover with allergies, there appear to be a few options:  not have a pet, have a pet and keep lots of Benadryl on hand, or seek out a hypoallergenic pet.

Only thing is, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic furry pet, at least not in the sense that the word hypoallergenic is understood. Most people believe hypoallergenic means allergy proof; it does not. Hypoallergenic refers to products and, for our purposes, pets, that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction for persons who are naturally allergic to said product or pet. So, whereas there’s no such thing as a pet that is completely hypoallergenic, there are breeds that trigger fewer allergic reactions.

If you believe (or know) you have pet allergies, chances are you have had an allergy test. If you reacted to dog or cat, you probably reacted big. Knowing you are allergic to a current or potential pet doesn’t come with any solace, and your allergist knows that. While many parents will opt to remove pets if the reactions in their children are intense, most people, especially adults, will opt to live with a runny nose and itchy eyes. They know the key to living with a pet is managing the environment that could result in allergic episodes, blotchy skin, or asthma attacks.

Dander-“ruff”

For those who suffer from allergies, the catalyst is not fur, but rather, dander. Dander is microscopic flakes of dead skin that get airborne and land in our eyes, nose, windpipes, air ducts, furniture, beds and skin. If a pet (or person) has skin, they have dander. The difference is, some breeds of animals have more dander than others. Most people who do have pet allergies also test positive for and can react to the proteins in pet’s urine and saliva. For a pet to be truly hypoallergenic, you would have to choose a goldfish or lizard!  That said, while some pets with less dander present fewer challenges for allergy sufferers, it is important to understand that less is still some and some dander may be enough to be dangerous to your or your loved one’s overall health.

To have or not have a pet, that is the question.

It doesn’t particularly matter, if your dog or cat (or ferret or rabbit) has long or short hair. If you test positive for allergies to dander, you will be affected. The question is, how much dander is present? And just because an animal has short hair or needs to be clipped vs. shedding, doesn’t mean that dander isn’t present. If your allergies are so severe they impact your quality of life (and ability to breathe), then it may benefit you to avoid having a pet in the home. However, if you and your pet have history or you are a committed pet lover, the trick is to be prepared. This may mean opting for hard-wood floors over carpet, keeping your furniture covered with sheets, vacuuming daily and, of course, seeking out an allergy regimen that may include nasal sprays, medication, and/or allergy injections to help build immunities. As a rule, it isn’t a good idea to rely on over-the-counter antihistamines to overcome an allergy trigger that is always present; these medications aren’t intended for such a purpose. Remember, allergies that are uncontrolled can contribute to asthma.

Breeder’s Choice

For those of us who are bent, bound and determined to have a pet, there are dog breeds that have been found to trigger less allergic reactions; they include:  Airedale terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Standard and miniature poodles, Bichon Frise’, Kelly Blue Terrier, and the Portuguese Water Dog.

Cat breeds that present less allergic reactions are Sphynx, Russian Blue, Siamese, Siberian, Bengal, Balinese, Cornish Rex, Oriental Shorthair, Devon Rex, Javanese, Ocicat, and Colorpoint Shorthair.

So, again, there’s no such thing as a true hypoallergenic pet, but there are ways to manage living with one.  Asthma sufferers, Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine will help you to find the correct treatment options to assist in controlling asthma symptoms. Give us a call today for more information or to schedule an appointment. Call 815-477-7350 today.

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