Having a pet in the family can be an enriching and gratifying experience. Unfortunately, there are many of us who tend to get allergic reactions from cats, dogs, or other animals. In fact, based on the findings by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as 3 in 10 people with allergies experience sensitivities triggered by dogs and cats.
A major reason for sneezy pet-related allergies is the dander (dead skin cells) that cats, dogs, and other mammals shed. For this reason, finding a hypoallergenic pet - one that is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction - might be a huge challenge. This is because veterinarians claim that there are no completely hypoallergenic pets.
People who have allergies and yet desire a pet's companionship, shouldn’t be disheartened. Here are some of the best pets that allergy sufferers can consider keeping. These adorable animals are likely to be a little friendlier to your allergies.
Despite being so fluffy, Shih Tzus are a great choice for a pet. These little dogs have hair-like coat rather than fur and are hence often considered hypoallergenic. "These dogs are low allergen," says Sara Ochoa, DVM, veterinary consultant for Doglab.com. However, you would need to groom them properly and keep their hair neat and clean. Furthermore, Shih Tzus don’t shed as much as other dogs and proper grooming will ensure that the dander they produce is reduced greatly.
Shih Tzus are known to be intelligent, affectionate and easygoing, and would make a great addition to your family.
Poodles have curly hair and that may seem like a trigger for many allergies. However, noted veterinary consultants say that they are the number one dog people who have allergies should consider. This is because they come in a variety of sizes and don't shed. They also have less dander than other dogs, which limits their risk of activating allergies. Like most dogs, poodles are also intelligent, active and faithful apart from being easily trained.
Portuguese water dogs were made famous by former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle. The well-known couple went looking for a dog that wouldn't trigger their daughter Malia's allergies. As they discovered later, a Portuguese water dog fit their needs perfectly.
This medium-sized dog breed produces little dander but does require regular maintenance, as it has a robust coat. In fact, they require so much coat maintenance that a majority of the allergens are washed out of their hair. These dogs have a coat that grows like human hair and they do not shed. Also, they have no undercoat. Thus, the allergy burden with the Portuguese water dog is significantly lesser.
First spotted in 1960 in Devon, England, the Devon rex cat has less hair than most cats and hence doesn’t require regular grooming. Having a short, rippling coat made of down fur makes this cat is a good choice for people allergic to cats. Bear in mind here that no cat can be completely hypoallergenic. However, there have been several reported cases of people with allergies living comfortably with Devon rex cats.
Cat saliva contains proteins that can act as allergens. However, the fact that this cat has significantly less fur also means less saliva because they won’t need to clean themselves so frequently.
The Siberian breed of cat is gentle on allergies, many experts have observed. This comes across as quite surprising because of the long beautiful coat they have. However, it has been noted that this cat produces less Fel d 1 than other breeds. This is the protein that people often negatively react to.
According to the tests conducted by the Indoor Biotechnologies laboratory in Virginia (USA), the Siberian male cat produces about 2,000 mg of Fel D1 against the 62,000 created by the common cat. These witty cats also have lower-than-average enzyme levels in their saliva.
Reptiles are a good hypoallergenic pet option for people with allergies and herbivorous tortoises perfectly fit that need. Since they have no fur and feathers, tortoises (and turtles) are regarded as non-allergenic. Moreover, if cared for properly, they can live for well over 50 years and you can relish the companionship of these allergen-free pets for a very long time.
Do take note, though, that tortoises or turtles may carry salmonella (a bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract). Thus, make it a point to wash your hands thoroughly when you have carried or touched your pet tortoise.
Yes, they are slightly less-ordinary pets and may not appear cuddly or cute as cats or dogs. However, bearded dragons will certainly make for cool and safe pets in the family. They enjoy human interaction and can be easily trained with positive reinforcement. Most importantly, though, these kid-friendly reptiles do not release allergens into the surrounding area as readily as mammals. Moreover, they also don’t have hair that can further set off allergies. It is for this reason that most vets and experts consider bearded dragons as overwhelmingly allergy-friendly.
However, like most reptiles, bearded dragons carry salmonella and precautions must be taken accordingly while handling them at home.
Having a feathered friend might be the best option if your family has regular allergy concerns. Birds are usually less allergenic than animals with fur and canaries, in particular, have got along well with allergy sufferers. In fact, even people who are very sensitive to cats and dogs have rarely had any issues with having canaries as pets. Canaries, along with parakeets and finches, are some of the few species of birds that don’t produce a sneeze-inducing powder on their wings as several large birds do. Moreover, their tiny size further reduces the risk of possible allergy activators.
Birds like canaries and parakeets also love to socialize and are so vibrant and friendly that it makes them even more suitable as pets.
They may not be considered cute in the traditional sense, but Sphynx cats are great as pets for those with a constant risk of allergies. They are known for their hairlessness and were first bred in the 1960s. Sphynx cats are regarded as less allergenic since they have extremely thin fur that can’t trap allergens in the cat’s saliva. This means fewer chances of getting any allergies from it.
However, since there is no fully hypoallergenic cat, you will have to deal with urine, saliva, and dander of the Sphynx cats as well. Moreover, they do require a lot of grooming, which includes regular baths to remove oils on their skin and wax in the ears. That being said, Sphynx cats are known to be extroverts and are generally quite friendly.
If none of the choices from above suit you, then you can opt to have a goldfish. These fish, apart from being so pretty, are the ultimate allergy-friendly pet, especially for a kid with allergies. Since they stay on the water, you don’t actually have any direct or airborne contact with them. Allergies should thus not be an issue. Yes, you can’t pet and cuddle a goldfish. But watching them swim back and forth in the tank elegantly can be mesmerizing for kids.
While they are certainly the safest pet option for you, do remember to keep the goldfish's tank squeaky clean because mold and mildew can build up at the surface and release their spores into the air. Also, aquatic environments can contain bacteria and that can lead to infection. But with safe handling, a goldfish can become the best allergen-free pet you can have.