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Can Hypoallergenic Pets Really Help Alleviate Allergy Symptoms?

For animal lovers, receiving a pet allergy diagnosis is the worst.

Most likely if you or someone in your family is allergic to pets but love animals, you may have already tried to find creative ways to bring a cat or dog into your home. Perhaps you’ve thought of getting a hairless or hypoallergenic pet in an effort to keep allergy symptoms at bay.

But can hypoallergenic pets really help reduce allergy symptoms?

What is a Hypoallergenic Animal?

When many people hear the term hypoallergenic, they think “free of allergens”. In actuality, the word means fewer allergens, not allergen-free. So if you’re hoping to find a dog or cat that carries no allergens at all, you’ll be very disappointed.

Also keep in mind that if you do have a pet allergy, you react to proteins found in the animal’s urine, saliva, and dander (dead skin cells). The pet fur is not an allergen in itself. It only carries those other substances that set off your allergies. The idea that shorthair pets cause fewer allergies is actually false. Since the allergens latch onto the hair, you’ll want a pet that sheds less to help control your symptoms. Length of hair really won’t be effective in controlling your allergies since some shorthair animals shed quite a bit.

As James Seltzer, MD, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Studies explains, “…hypoallergenic cats and dogs can cause just as many symptoms as the regular kind. That’s because skin and saliva proteins, not just hair, trigger allergy symptoms.”

That said, some allergy sufferers seem to do better with certain breeds. While you won’t find a list of pets proven to reduce allergies, it is possible you may have better luck with some of the breeds listed below. Of course you’ll want to do your own extensive research before you bring a pet into your home:

  1. Bedlington Terrier. These small dogs typically weigh around 20 lbs. Their thick wooly coat sheds less fur so you may experience fewer symptoms with this pet.

  2. Bichon Frise. Another smaller dog breed, the bichon frise has earned the nickname the “powder puff” dog for their silky undercoat and rougher and curly outer fur.

  3. Chinese Crested. You won’t get this dog for its looks since many consider the Chinese Crested to be one of the ugliest breeds around. Another very small dog, weighing only 10-13 lbs., they shed little to no hair, lowering the amount of allergens in the home. You can get a hairless version of this breed, with longer fur on the head, tail, and feet only, or one with a soft fur coat all over its body.

  4. Devon Rex Cat. Looking similar to a Siamese, the Devon Rex has big, pointy ears and a small face. Their fur is either smooth and thin or longer and curly. The Devon Rex still causes allergy symptoms in some sufferers so be cautious before bringing one into your home. Also keep in mind that kittens shed more allergens than adult cats. Allergen levels decrease between 6 and 12 months of age, but never go away entirely.

  5. Irish Water Spaniel. A bigger dog weighing over 40 lbs., the Irish Water Spaniel will need grooming every few weeks and a trimming every couple of months. If you do decide that this breed is right for you and your family, best to have someone without allergies handle the chore of brushing. Doing it outside will reduce the amount of allergens released into your home.

  6. Poodle. Poodles are yet another dog breed thought to produce fewer allergens. You can get a toy, miniature, or standard-size poodle. If you have allergies and want a dog, many specialists recommend going with a smaller dog as they produce less allergens. Although no solid evidence exists to prove that you’ll experience fewer symptoms with a small dog, a smaller animal will of course shed less, releasing fewer allergens in the home.

  7. Balinese Cat. For allergy sufferers, cat allergens tend to be more potent than those of dogs, so you’ll want to seriously consider whether a cat is right for you. Balinese cats produce less of the Fel D1 protein, an allergen found in cat saliva, so they may be a feasible option if you do decide to get a feline.

The above is just a short list of potential pet breeds that may produce fewer allergens. Always keep in mind that all pets, whether hypoallergenic or not, will produce some allergens. Also, just spending a few hours with an animal won’t let you know if it will aggravate your symptoms long-term. Constant exposure to an allergen may eventually lead to a new allergy or make an old one worse.

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