By and large, having a pet is a positive experience. Having a dog or cat to come home to after a long day at work can relieve stress and reduce anxiety. Being responsible for the well-being of a pet can also teach you many life lessons, such as compassion for all living beings. For children, having pets can inspire confidence and help them develop empathy.
The problem, however, is that some people are allergic to pets. Even the slightest exposure to a dog or a cat can send them sneezing or make their skin erupt in itchy, painful hives. Does this mean that these people will be forever deprived of the joy of being a so-called “fur parent”?
Here are some answers to some common questions about pets and allergies. Hopefully, these can help you still have a positive experience with dogs, cats, and similar animals that you can keep as pets.
Are Pet Allergies and Allergic Rhinitis the Same?
If you have allergic rhinitis, you might immediately think that you also have a pet allergy. However, even if these two conditions have plenty of similar symptoms, they’re distinct from one another. The key difference is the triggers. With allergic rhinitis, you may have multiple triggers that may or may not include pet dander. Meanwhile, when you have a pet allergy, you’re allergic to pets or animals only.
Sometimes, you may confuse allergic rhinitis with a pet allergy if your pet has been exposed to an allergen and then you get exposed to your pet. For example, if your dog played on the grass and they caught some pollen on their fur, your allergic rhinitis can get triggered—not by the fur but by the pollen.
To know for sure if you’re allergic to animals or have any other sensitivities, it’s best to undergo allergy tests.
Does Pet Hair Cause or Trigger Allergies?
Most of the time, the primary allergen from most kinds of animals is their saliva. Another allergy trigger from pets is dander, which are essentially dead skin cells shed by an animal with fur. It’s rare that an animal’s hair or fur is the actual cause of the allergy. As earlier mentioned, allergens like pollen can get caught in an animal’s fur. When the allergen then results in a reaction, it can be easy to mistake that the trigger was the fur.
Can I Still Have a Pet Even If I Have Allergies?
Yes, you can still have pets even if you have allergies. If your allergy is mild and the symptoms are merely inconvenient or at least tolerable, then you can simply continue taking your medications to prevent or minimize allergy attacks. You can also reduce your exposure to allergens. For example, if you’re allergic to dog saliva, you can take care not to get licked by your pet.
You may also choose not to have furred animals as a pet. For example, instead of a dog or cat, you may instead take care of fish. If you really want furry pets, consider smaller animals like hamsters so they produce fewer allergens.
Are There Hypoallergenic Dogs or Cats?
Sadly, there are no “hypoallergenic” dogs or cats; rather, there are only breeds that don’t produce as many allergens. Some of the most allergy-friendly breeds of dogs and cats include the following:
- Bichon Frise
- Giant Schnauzer
- Mini Schnauzer
- Shih Tzu
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Cornish Rex
- Devon Rex
- Russian Blue
Are Short-Haired Dogs or Cats Better for My Allergies?
As previously mentioned, an animal’s fur isn’t usually a primary allergen but rather a carrier. What’s more, even hairless breeds of dogs and cats can produce a lot of allergens. You should also consider that some of the above-mentioned allergy-friendly dogs and cats actually have plenty of fur.
What you need to consider is how much and how often the animal sheds. If they shed plenty and frequently, it’s more likely that they can trigger your allergies more often.
What Are Some Ways to Minimize Allergy Attacks If I Have Pets At Home?
If you’re committed to having pets despite your allergies, it’s upon you to create an environment that’s more conducive for your health. Here are some tips:
- Keep your pet in a designated space at home and don’t let them wander. This way, you can somewhat confine the spread of allergens. Most importantly, keep your pet out of your bedroom so you don’t get exposed to allergens for long hours.
- If they can be bathed, bathe your pets regularly. This way, any allergens that get caught in their fur will be removed. Make sure to wear gloves and other protective gear to prevent exposure to the allergen; you may also have someone else bathe your pet if your allergy is severe. Of course, ask your vet for the ideal schedule; your pet’s health may decline if you bathe them too often.
- Vacuum more often to remove allergens that linger on the floor, carpets, and other surfaces.
- If you can, invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
- Be mindful when you play with your pets, so they don’t accidentally lick or scratch you. Also, make sure to wash your hands or even take a shower afterwards.
As long as you’re careful and follow the advice of both your doctor and your pet’s veterinarian, you can take care of your pets without aggravating your allergies too much.