Itchy, watery eyes, wheezing, hives and skin rashes, are just some of the frustrating allergic responses people can suffer from their pets.
If you already own the animal that you are allergic to don’t panic as there maybe steps you can take that will reduce allergic reactions, for example confining your pet to a certain area of the house, regular baths and reducing the number of soft furnishings.
If you are looking for a pet that will not cause an allergic reaction in yourself or family members, careful selection of the animal you choose may mean there is hope for everyone.
What causes an allergic reaction to your pet?
Allergic reactions to pets, are normally caused by the animals skin. Despite popular belief, the fur from your pet does not actually produce allergens. It is the skin that produces certain protein molecules, which are the allergens. These allergens are often also present in the pet's saliva and even the urine.
The biggest cause of suffering from cats and dogs in their owners is the animal’s skin, which sheds along with the fur, called 'dander'. The dander leaves traces of allergens all over the house.
The situation is very much the same with rodents’, as well as the dander, the urine within the animals enclosure may also be enough to trigger an allergic response. In addition many types of food frequently fed to rodents can also cause allergic reactions in their owners, for example many food mixes contain peanuts.
Birds however, create a multitude of allergy problems. It is possible to be allergic to the dander produced by birds, however a major allergen is dust. Dust can be found among their feathers, and dust mites are often present crawling in their food.
The food fed to birds could in itself create an allergy; canola oil in particular may be the cause of many bird allergy sufferers.
If you know exactly what type of allergy you suffer from, it is still wise to get yourself tested. This is recommended before purchasing your pet rather than discovering later that you are allergic, once it has become a beloved member of your family.
You may find after all, that you are not allergic to your favourite animal, but instead allergic to their bedding, food or something else closely related. Inthis case it may be possible to source alternative products.
Before looking at species and breeds of animals, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the level of allergens throughout your house. These include:
- Minimising the use of soft furnishings - Rugs, throws and carpets will all accumulate allergen.
- Only allow your pet entry to certain parts of the house. Don’t allow pets into your bedroom.
- Vacuum your house regularly. Some vacuums are especially good for allergy sufferers.
- Ensure adequate ventilation.
- Regular grooming.
- Regular hand washing and wash your own clothes on a far more regular basis.
Which pet is for you?
Following any tests that your medical practitioner has undergone it may well be worth doing a “real life test”, that is spending a lot of time with the pet breed you are interested in on numerous occasions to see if you develop any symptoms. If you remain allergy free, chances are that it is a good choice. Reputable breeders of dogs and cats should allow and encourage regular visits and handling of your chosen animal before you commit to buy.
For those that don't have their heart set on a particular type of pet, it might be worth considering the safest options, including reptiles, insects and fish. Although they may not spring to mind as being your first choice, once you begin to look at the amazing collection of reptiles available including snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises you may change your mind. If you like the look of a particular species, ask the shop assistant if you are able to hold it briefly. A good shop will allow you to hold the animals before a decision is made. Despite popular belief, many reptiles make excellent pets and can become great friends with their owners. Bearded Dragons for example are sometimes described as the “puppy dog” of the reptile species.
Fish keeping can become a very absorbing and rewarding hobby. A well maintained marine or tropical tank is stunning.
For bird lovers, there are various species that may produce more problems than others. Parrots for example need more food, produce more mess and more dander and dust than smaller birds such as budgies or canaries. If you really want a parrot, a smaller species such as a cockatiel may be a good alternative.
If you are allergic to rodents it can be quite difficult to reduce the spread of allergens. Although it is possible to keep them in one particular room in your house, the cages need regular cleaning, which produces lots of dust and rodents do not enjoy being bathed or groomed. However being allergic to one rodent does not mean you are allergic to them all, undertaking a “real life” allergy test, that is spending lots of time handling them will give you some idea as to how you will react to them.
Keeping a guinea pig, rabbit or ferret may be your best option, as with suitable housing they can be kept outside year round.
Cats are the number one pet allergy complaint, with literally hundreds of thousands of sufferers keeping them. There are however certain breeds which are considered 'hypoallergenic' (produce less allergen). These include the Siberian, Sphynx, Siamese, Cornish Rex and Devon Rex. For those with big budgets, the Allerca GD cat is the world’s first scientifically proven cat which does not produces the allergenic protein that causes the suffering.
Male cats are also said to produce more allergens than females, and surveys have also shown that darker coloured cats cause more suffering than lighter coloured cats.
Spending time with a “hypoallergenic” cat would be the best way of assessing your level of allergic response to them.
If you really would like to keep a dog despite your allergies, there are breeds of dog that may be more suitable than others. However, as the allergens are present in the dogs’ saliva, sufferers will still be affected at some level.
The coat types of dog breeds are significant in how much of an allergic response they may cause.
Coats considered to produce fewer allergens include:
- Single-coated dogs, which don’t have a thick undercoat.
- Double-coated breeds of dog, whose coat is similar to human hair, in that it continues to grow without shedding regularly.
- Hairless dogs.
Remember when looking into breeds of dog considered good for allergy sufferers, everyone’s allergy is different and may vary greatly from person to person.
Examples of dogs considered good for allergy sufferers
- American hairless terrier
- Bedlington Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Bichon Yorkie
- Border Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Chinese Crested Hairless
- Giant Schnauzer
- Irish Water Spaniel
- West Highland Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
Unfortunately, a cure for allergies does not exist. Allergies often come and go with age, and certain drugs can keep symptoms at bay for only a limited time. The tendency towards allergic reactions is often hereditary, therefore when considering a pet it is important to check your whole family for allergic responses.