How to Choose a Pet When You Have Allergies


Sorry, there are no hypoallergenic dogs or cats

When the First Family got Bo, a Portuguese water dog, because President Obama’s daughter Malia has allergies, reports claimed that it was the perfect “hypoallergenic dog” (meaning it wouldn’t cause an allergic reaction). “But there is no such thing,” says Jessica Vogelsang, DVM, a veterinarian in San Diego. “The allergic reaction is triggered by the proteins in their saliva and skin, which of course all dogs and cats have.” A study in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy confirmed this, finding no evidence that supposedly hypoallergenic dogs have less allergen. However, some breeds that shed less may be less likely to trigger reactions.

It’s worth checking whether you’re actually allergic to animals

You may think you have a pet allergy, but “an outdoor dog or cat might just be bringing in pollens or mold spores, which could be what’s really causing your flare-ups,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist and the medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. Visit an allergist and get tested so you know exactly what it is you’re reacting to. If results for pet allergies come back negative, still make sure to clean your pets and keep cats inside. On that note…

You’ll need to make cleaning a big priority

For those who suffer from severe pet allergies, it’s probably not wise to own a dog or cat—period. But if you’ve got mild allergies and think you can manage, you must be extra scrupulous about scrubbing your house down. Invest in a HEPA air purifier, Dr. Bassett advises, which will help trap dander, as well as a HEPA vacuum (the regular kind often just blows allergens back out). Also key: making bedrooms a pet-free zone to minimize your exposure to dander. Though it’s impossible to completely rid the room of pet allergens, you’ll sleep much better, as well as have a safe haven if you feel an allergy attack coming on. Finally, avoid heavy drapes and carpets—allergens love to make their home there—and opt for blinds and hardwood floors you can easily wipe down.

Pets with (some) benefits: Nonshedding dogs, like poodles

The dog hair itself doesn’t cause a reaction, but the skin cells that do trigger allergies, also known as dander, bind to the hair. So having less fur around can make a difference.

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