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Is There Such a Thing as Hypoallergenic Pets?

Is There Such a Thing as “Hypoallergenic Pets”?

There’s nothing better than the joy animal brings to your life. They offer unconditional love, they’re great companions, and there’s really nothing better than cuddling with a cute little critter. While there’s no disputing how wonderful it is to have a pet – especially those furry ones- if you or someone in your home suffers from allergies, instead of being an amazing experience, having a pet can seem more like a prison sentence.

The symptoms of those who suffer from animal-related allergies will undoubtedly be exacerbated when they share a household with a pet. Those symptoms – as well as their severity – can vary, both in terms of the side effects that are experienced, as well as the severity. With that said, however, examples of some of the symptoms that individuals who suffer from pet-related allergies may experience can include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Skin irritations, such as itchiness and dryness

If you or a family member suffers from animal-related allergies, you might be thinking that bringing a pet into your home is out of the question; however, all hope is not lost. There are so-called “hypoallergenic” animals that may be a suitable option for allergy sufferers to have as pets. Do keep in mind, though, that you may need to think outside of the box, so to speak, and get an animal that isn’t considered a “traditional” pet. Read on to learn more about “hypoallergenic” animals that you could potentially welcome into your home as a pet.

What is a “hypoallergenic” pet?

To understand what these types of pets are, it’s first important to understand what “hypoallergenic” means. According to dictionary.com, the term “hypoallergenic” is defined as things that are “designed to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response, as by containing relatively few or no potentially irritating substances. In terms of pets, the term “hypoallergenic”, then, refers to animals that produce minimal allergens.

Allergies occur when allergy sufferers are exposed to a substance that their body identifies as a danger. When that allergen is present, the immune system thinks there’s a danger, and in order to protect the individual, it goes into hyper-drive. The result of this over-reaction of the immune system can present in a variety of symptoms, including those listed above. The severity of the symptoms can vary, too.

What types of allergens to pets produce? Largely, the source is their dander. Just like humans, animal skin cells are constantly regenerating, and old skin cells sloth off. The dead skin cells are extremely dry, are very small in size, and are very lightweight. As a result, they float through the air and can be easily inhaled. Exposure to that dander, thus, can spark allergic reactions. Another allergen that’s associated with animals is their saliva. Saliva contains proteins, and in some people, those proteins can spark allergic reactions.

Given the fact that pet dander and saliva are two of the biggest causes of pet-related allergies, finding the perfect “hypoallergenic” pet requires careful investigation and decision-making.

Are there hypoallergenic pets?

So, is there really such a thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet? The answer to that question is complex, but below, you can find out more about the different types of animals and breeds of animals that are a lot less likely to spark allergic reactions that may make suitable pets for individuals who suffer from allergies.

Hypoallergenic dogs and cats

Without a doubt, dogs and cats are the most popular pets; however, for allergy sufferers, they often aren’t suitable pets. That’s because dogs and cats are warm-blooded, and every warm-blooded species produces proteins that can spark allergic reactions in people whose immune systems are sensitive to such proteins. Those proteins, of course, are released in dog and cat dander and saliva.

While there is no such thing as a fully hypoallergenic dog or cat, there are some breeds of canines and felines that do produce lower levels of allergy-causing proteins. Finding these breeds can be a difficult task, and if you do find one, they can be quite pricey. Additionally, some dogs and cats that are said to be hypoallergenic can actually still cause allergic reactions, as the proteins are still found in their dander and saliva. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are several different breeds of so-called “hypoallergenic” dogs. Examples include:

  • American hairless terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Chinese Crested
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Schnauzers
  • Maltese
  • Poodles
  • Wheaten terriers
  • Yorkshire terriers

Felines tend to spark more allergic reactions than canines. That’s because cats groom themselves more often, and grooming releases dander and the protein that it contains into the air. As such, allergy sufferers are more likely to be exposed to cat dander. While cat dander can be problematic for allergy sufferers, the problem is more often caused by their saliva. That’s because cat saliva contains a specific protein, known as Fel d 1, and many people who are allergic to cats are allergic to this protein. Like dogs, no cat is truly hypoallergenic, but there are some feline breeds that produce fewer allergens than others. Examples include:

  • Devon Rex
  • Cornish Rex
  • Sphynx
  • Balinese
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Russian Blue

Smaller mammals

While dogs and cats are the most popular household pets, they aren’t the only animals that make good companions. There are several other smaller mammals that might be suitable for your family, especially if you’re looking to get a child his or her own pet. Some of the most common small mammals that make great pets include rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and even chinchillas. But if you suffer from allergies, you might be wondering if these small mammals are hypoallergenic.

Just like cats and dogs, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and chinchillas all produce dander; after all, they’re warm-blooded animals, and as discussed, all warm-blooded animals produce dander because the skin that lies underneath their coats of fur is constantly regenerating, and the dead skin cells sloth off and circulate into the air. With that said, however, there is a difference between cats and dogs and smaller animals, in terms of the potential for allergic reactions that they may cause. That difference largely has to do with the fact that rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, and other small mammals are usually housed in cages. As such, most of the dander that they produce is contained in a central location.

With that said, however, small mammals aren’t completely hypoallergenic, but the allergic reactions they cause tend to be significantly less than the allergy-related symptoms that associated with cats and dogs. In other words, allergy sufferers may be able to share a household with these animals with minimal issue.  The following tips can help to ensure that allergic reactions are kept to a minimum:

  • Keep the cages of small mammals in space that is relatively quite
  • Clean the cage on a regular basis. If possible, someone who doesn’t have allergy should clean the cage; however, if that isn’t an option, change the cage in a well-ventilated space, wear gloves, and consider wearing a respirator mask to minimize the amount of dander you inhale. Always wash your hands after changing the cage.

It’s very important to note that some species of small mammals, like guinea pigs, are very social beings. As such, do your research before committing to a small mammal for a pet to find out what their social habits are like. If they are very social, you’ll want to have at least two, because believe it or not, if social animals, like guinea pigs, are kept alone, they can suffer from depression.

Pigs

It might sound crazy, but pigs have become pretty popular house pets. They don’t have thick coats of fur, so many people assume that pigs are hypoallergenic, but that isn’t the case. Firstly, if you look closely, pigs do have coats of fine hair; therefore, no, they are not hypoallergenic, as they do produce dander. However, because they have less hair and they don’t shed as much, there is a chance that they may not pose as much risk for allergy sufferers. Do note, however, that like other warm-blooded animals, pig saliva does contain proteins, and those proteins can be allergy-inducing – especially because they tend to droll. It’s also important to note that pigs can grow rather large in size, with some weighing up to 500 pounds or more. Even so-called “mini pigs” can grow a lot bigger than one might expect. With that said, if you’re thinking about a pig as a pet, you want to be certain that you will be able to accommodate their needs. This includes ensuring that you can keep up on their eating habits to ensure that they remain healthy, and that you have enough space for them to comfortably reside in your home.

What about non-mammal pets?

Given the fact that all species of mammals – even those that are said to be “hypoallergenic” – do produce dander and that dander, as well as their saliva, can contain proteins that can aggravate the immune systems of allergy sufferers and thus, cause allergy-related symptoms, you might be wondering if animals that aren’t mammals would be better suited as pets. Let’s take a look at some different types of non-mammal animals that can be considered pets.

Birds

There are many different types of birds that make great pets. Not only are they pretty, but they can be quite intelligent, and some can be social and even “cuddly”. But are they hypoallergenic? No. Birds are warm-blooded, and as discussed several times, all-warm blooded animals produce dander – including all varieties of birds. As they flap their wings and preen themselves, the dander that birds produce can be spread into the air. If you’re thinking about a bird as a family pet and you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, there are things that you can do to reduce allergy attacks. For instance, set the bird cage in a removed corner of your house and make sure that the area is well-ventilated; open windows, use fans, and invest in a quality air purifier, for example. Additionally, make sure that cage is cleaned on a regular basis, as well as the area around it, to prevent dander buildup; the more dander, the greater the chances of allergic reactions. If possible, a non-allergy sufferer should do the cleaning; however, if that isn’t possible, make sure that the space is well-ventilated when cleaning, wear gloves, and wear a respirator and goggles to minimize the risk of an allergy attack. As long as proper precautions are taken, it is possible for those who suffer from allergies to live with birds with relatively little to no symptoms.

Reptiles and amphibians

If you’re looking for a truly hypoallergenic pet, a reptile or amphibian is your best bet. Because they’re cold-blooded animals, they pose minimal risks to those who suffer from allergies, making them an excellent option for households with allergy sufferers. Of course, reptiles and amphibians aren’t as cuddly as dogs, casts, and other mammals, like rabbits, and even hamsters and chinchillas.

Examples of different types of reptiles and amphibians that would make great pets for those who suffer from allergies include lizards, snakes, turtles, and frogs. They’re very interesting and can make great pets, but they do have a unique set of care requirements, and they’re behavioral, dietary, hydrological, and thermal needs need to be met in order to ensure that they thrive. Furthermore, some species do pose a risk of spreading illnesses; turtles, in particular, as they can carry salmonella, a bacterial disease that is contagious in nature, but washing your hands thoroughly after handling these animals can reduce the risk. As long as you and your family are willing to invest the time and effort that these animals require, reptiles and amphibians can make great pets.

Fish

Last on the list of animals that allergy sufferers may want to consider are fish. Since they do not generate any type of allergen, they do not pose a risk of causing allergic reactions. There are many different species, many of which require minimal maintenance, especially when compared to mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. However, their tanks do need to be properly cleaned and filtered. Plus, if you have a large aquarium, there is a chance that the relative humidity level in your home could increase, which has the risk of causing other types of air quality concerns; mold growth, for example.

Invest in Mold Inspection Services

No matter which type of pet you decide to make a member of your family, you do need to make sure that you provide them with the right care. There are several things that you can do to minimize the risk of allergic reactions as a pet owner, but there’s one thing that a lot of pet parents forget that can cause allergic reactions, even if the animal is truly hypoallergenic. What is it? Check for mold growth. The risk of indoor mold growth is associated with all pets. Why? Because their excrement contains moisture, and that moisture, if not thoroughly dried, can increase the risk of indoor mold growth. Remember that mold can thrive in any area, as long as moisture is present, and mold spores are a known allergen.

In addition to making sure that any moisture that your pet produces is thoroughly dried, it’s a wise idea to invest in regular mold testing, performed by a reputable professional. At Mold Inspection and Testing, one of the largest and most reputable mold inspection companies in the country, our team of certified and experienced technicians will conduct extensive testing of your home’s surfaces and air to determine if mold growth is present, and if so, will help you determine the source of the problem, which could potentially be your pets. By opting for an animal that produces low or no allergens, and by having regular mold testing performed, allergy sufferers can experience the joy that pets bring with minimal discomfort.

 

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