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Hypoallergenic animals - Fact or Fiction?

Updated on February 3, 2012

For animal lovers who suffer from allergies, the idea of hypoallergenic animals is an exciting prospect. A hypoallergenic animal would mean that thousands of pet owners who may not have been able to keep pets otherwise could experience the joys of pet ownership. But is there really such a thing as a truly hypoallergenic animal? And if not, than what other options are there for allergy sufferers who would like to add a furry friend to their lives?

Hairless dogs, such as the Chinese Crested, often produce less dander than other breeds and may work well for an owner with allergies.
Hairless dogs, such as the Chinese Crested, often produce less dander than other breeds and may work well for an owner with allergies. | Source

To answer this question, it's first important to understand what the word hypoallergenic actually means. The prefix hypo means "below normal". Something that's allergenic is basically something that acts as an allergen, or triggers an allergic response. So if something is hypoallergenic than it causes a below normal or reduced allergic response. Over the years people have taken the word to mean that a hypoallergenic pet won't trigger allergies at all. That is not necessarily true. Hypoallergenic pets may trigger less of an allergic response, but they do still produce allergens and can still trigger allergic reactions.

To understand things further, we can look at how allergies to pets actually come about. Many people think that when they are allergic to an animal, that they are bothered by it's fur. But in fact it is usually protein found in animal dander, similar to dandruff in humans, that causes allergies. Now that we understand that, it's easier to understand why even certain breeds of animals who do not shed or maybe don't even have fur at all can still trigger an allergic response. Furthermore, things like an animal's saliva, blood, and urine can also be common allergy triggers. Because of this, even types of animals we don't usually associate with allergies, such as reptiles, can also cause allergic reactions in some people. When an animal licks itself or anything in it's environment, their saliva eventually dries and flakes off in tiny pieces that humans can come into contact with by touching or inhaling it. Or tiny amounts of the saliva can enter the air where they are more likely to come into contact with your eyes and skin. This can also occur with urine and blood.

Normally for a dog or cat breed to be considered hypoallergenic, it would mean not that the animal doesn't shed or have fur, but usually that it doesn't produce as much dander as other breeds. Some examples of dog breeds that tend to produce lower levels of dander include hairless breeds (such as the hairless Chinese Crested), dogs with corded fur (such as the Puli or Komondor), dogs with curly coats (like Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Bichon Frises), and wirehaired dogs (such as Jack Russel Terriers, Wirehaired Fox Terriers, and Brussels Griffons). Cat breeds that are believed to be more hypoallergenic include Russian Blues, Siberians, LaPerms, Cornish and Devon Rexes, and Sphynx cats.

But just because a certain breed or type of animal is considered to be hypoallergenic doesn't mean that it will be the perfect allergy free pet for everyone. Like was stated before, some animals may cause a below average amount of allergic reactions, but that doesn't mean that they never trigger allergies. Whether a certain type of animal or breed effects your allergies or not depends on the individual.

So if you suffer from allergies but still want a pet, what should you do? To start off, do some research on the type of animal you want. Other than looking at things like if the type of animal is hypoallergenic or not, make sure to research the animal's care needs to be sure that you are ready for a new pet. Poodles may be considered hypoallergenic, for example, but they are very smart, hyper, and have strict grooming requirements. After you have narrowed your list down to a couple of types of pets you'd like to consider, the next step is to go out and meet some! If you are interested in a certain breed of dog or cat, look for a breeder in your area that will let you visit and spend time with the breed. See how the animals effect your allergies. If that test works out, and you feel that you've found the right pet for you, be sure to meet with your potential new pet for a bit before committing to bring him or her home. Make sure the individual animal that you are thinking of getting doesn't trigger your allergies.

Along with researching and meeting with animals to determine the best one for you, these tips can help you deal with mild pet allergies or help to decrease the chance that your pet will trigger your allergies. They may also help if you already own a pet that you are allergic too.

  • Pet free zones: Designate at least one room in your home, ideally your bed room, as a pet free zone. This way you have an area to retreat too where there will be significantly less pet allergens.
  • Keep it clean: HEPA filters placed throughout your home can help to remove allergens from the air. Vacuum and clean your home frequently to reduce allergens. Bathe pets as needed to help keep them as clean as possible. Wash your hands and any other areas of exposed skin regularly to remove and allergens you may have came into contact with.
  • Consider medication: If your allergies are bad enough, you can consider getting allergy shots or take over the counter allergy medication to help reduce symptoms. Talk to your doctor about choosing the correct medication, or if you think you may need something stronger than over the counter options.


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    • Dragonrain profile image

      Dragonrain 5 years ago

      Thanks for reading! :)

    • carbon12 profile image

      carbon12 5 years ago

      I have two cats, a short hair and a medium hair and let me tell ya they shed. To have a pet that is hypoallergenic would be ideal but that is not my reality. This is a great hub that's informative. Thanks for sharing. I voted you up.

      Have a great day my friend.

    • Dragonrain profile image

      Dragonrain 5 years ago

      Thank you, and thanks for reading! :)

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 5 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Good Info!