How to Balance Allergies with Pet Ownership

By Olivia Pitkenthly
Boy with Dog

“Mom! When are we getting a dog?” If just hearing that phrase makes your sinuses hurt, your eyes water and your throat swell, you are not alone. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to dogs and has to balance allergies.

“It’s the dander that’s the issue, not necessarily the hair,” said veterinarian Jon Nadler. Dander is the pet’s dead skin that is shed, which then attaches to hair. Individuals with pet allergies are more sensitive and react to the proteins in the dander, saliva or urine. The proteins, also called allergens, can remain for several months and can even travel on clothing.

There is no pet that is hypoallergenic, but many dogs work well for people who need to balance allergies. “In general, any dog that you have to regularly groom is better,” said Nadler. “Their hair keeps growing instead of stopping at a certain length and falling out over and over.” Nadler recommends poodles and poodle mixes because they don’t shed as much. If someone is allergic to a certain breed of dog, then that person is more likely to be allergic to Shar-Peis and boxers as well.

Celeste Lowe, owner of DooDoo Crew, a company that offers pet sitting and cleanup, stated she has customers who are allergy sufferers. “I have two customers who have vizslas (Hungarian sporting dogs) because of allergies and another who has a goldendoodle (mix of poodle and golden retriever) for the same reason,” she said.

Other dog breeds that work well with children and allergy sufferers alike include many types of terrier, the bichon frise, the Chinese crested, schnauzers and water dogs. President Obama and his wife chose a Portuguese water dog due to daughter Malia’s allergies.

“Dad! When are we getting a cat?” So, dogs aren’t your thing, and the kids want a cat. But the dander is just too much and will send you into a sneezing marathon. People with allergies are more sensitive to cats than dogs, mostly because cats lick their fur more than dogs. Again, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat, but there are a couple to consider.

Being hairless, the Sphynx is an obvious choice, but keep in mind that it will still have dander. If you want a cat with hair, the Devon rex has been proven to be good with allergy sufferers. It has a short, rippling coat made of down fur and has less fur than other breeds, so it doesn’t have to groom as frequently.

If you have already become attached to a pet that isn’t allergen-friendly, there is hope! Discuss allergy medication with your doctor, invest in a HEPA filter, keep certain areas of your home pet-free and clean your home and your pet frequently for a nearly sneeze-free environment! ]

Thinking Outside the (Litter) Box

Here are some other pet choices to consider:

  • Syrian hamster
  • Leopard gecko
  • Various birds
  • Fish