Best Pets for People With Allergies

Best Pets for People With Allergies — © Exactostock/SuperStock

Can people who have pet allergies find dogs or cats they can live with? Science has recently debunked the notion that certain breeds of cats and dogs are “hypoallergenic,” meaning they don’t trigger allergic reactions in people as much as other breeds. What does this really mean? Should a gecko or turtle become man’s (or woman’s) best friend?

One breed of so-called hypoallergenic feline is the sphynx cat. Despite its lovely name, it has to be one of the least attractive, least cuddly feline breeds in the world, right up there with its canine counterpart, the hairless Chihuahua. Not a single hair protrudes from its skin, and you can see every fold and wrinkle. For most people, it’s a cat that only its mother, or its proud human owner, could love. Owners overlook the lack of hair because that’s what supposedly makes the breed hypoallergenic.

For the same reason, dogs that shed less than other breeds — schnauzers, poodles and Portuguese water dogs, for instance — are also thought to be less allergenic. The idea is that less loose hair equals fewer allergic responses. While there’s some truth to this notion, it’s not for the reason many people think.

It turns out that it’s not a pet’s hair people are allergic to. Instead, it’s a protein found in dogs’ and cats’ saliva, urine and dead skin flakes (called dander). These proteins are tiny and easily stick to hair (and dust), which then can spread around the house. Cats and dogs can also pick up plant allergens from outside and bring them into the house.

So animal fur is a conveyor of allergens, but not a source. Even a hairless dog or cat still creates dander, still urinates and still licks itself (and perhaps you), so it will always produce allergens. Experts believe that smaller breeds, because they have less skin surface area, could reduce allergic responses in sensitive people.

If you opt for a small dog (or cat) and have someone wash it twice a week, make sure it never goes into the bedroom, and keep your house spotlessly clean, you might be able to minimize your allergic response. But that’s asking a lot.

Before you give up on the idea of owning a dog or cat, though, consider this: Every person with a pet allergy reacts differently to individual animals, no matter the breed. In other words, if you can spend time around an animal before adopting it, you may be able to determine if you can tolerate the allergens it produces. For many people, however, this isn’t possible or practical.

If such is the case for you, you might think about adopting another species, such as a rabbit, gerbil or hamster. There’s no guarantee that you won’t have an allergic response to any of these animals, as they also create dander that some people are allergic to, but it might be worth a try.

Birds are another option, though some people are sensitive to allergens present in their waste. Again, you’ll have to be around one for a while to figure out if it would make a suitable housemate.

If you want to be sure a pet won’t provoke allergies, the only sure-fire beast to consider would be a non-furry one, like an amphibian (frog or newt), reptile (snake, lizard, iguana, turtle) or fish.

Although an iguana’s cold stare doesn’t hold a candle to a dog’s soulful gaze, and it’s hard to curl up on a couch with a turtle, at least you’d have somebody to care for and perhaps even talk to when no one else is around. Best of all, you’d be enjoying your new friend’s company without sneezes, sniffles and watery eyes.

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About Jack Garrand
I am new to blogging and hope to share my gaming interests with the world.

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