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Day after day, allergy-suffering animal lovers comb breed descriptions in search of their Holy Grail: a hypoallergenic dog or cat — one that doesn’t produce sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, skin reactions or an asthma attack.
Though an Internet search will surface all kinds of animals said to be hypoallergenic — from hairless creatures to those with curly or wiry coats to animals with hair instead of fur and those who don’t shed heavily — the truth is that all animals produce allergens, says Dr. Oren P. Schaefer, an allergist at Mass Lung & Allergy in Worcester, Massachusetts. “The impression of a hypoallergenic pet is one that does not produce allergy, and that doesn’t exist,” he says in a sympathetic tone. “There are some animals that are less allergenic, but they all make the allergen that can cause trouble. It’s a matter of how much they make.”
Dogs, for instance, make six allergens, which are found in varying amounts in their dander (skin flakes), saliva and urine, explains William H. Miller, VMD, a dermatology specialist and professor of medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. “You can be very allergic to one dog and not another. This can be within the same breed or between breeds.”
But what about breeds created to be hypoallergenic, such as Labradoodles, Goldendoodles and other Poodle mixes? They were bred with the idea that the Poodle's curly (and supposedly hypoallergenic) coat would diminish the likelihood that they would cause allergies. Like any other animal, however, they vary in the amount of dander and allergen they produce. Reputable breeders don’t guarantee their animals will be hypoallergenic.
If you’re allergic but still want to add a pet to your family, these tips can help you find one that may be less likely to leave you sniffling, sneezing and wheezing.
How allergy sufferers respond to allergens varies, but a few simple strategies can help ease the burden. Many people find that taking medications or getting allergy shots helps them better tolerate the presence of animals. Also smart: having your pet groomed frequently, either by a professional or someone in the household who doesn’t have allergies.
One caveat from Dr. Miller: If your pet allergies cause asthma attacks, which can be dangerous, you’re better off not trying to live with a dog or cat.
Though it’s true that no animal is truly allergen free, there are breeds or hybrids that may be less likely to stir up sensitivities because of their type of coat or the amount of allergens they produce.
Dogs: Bedlington Terrier, Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, Coton de Tulear, Goldendoodle, Irish Water Spaniel, Italian Greyhound, Labradoodle, Maltese, Maltipoo, Miniature Schnauzer, Toy or Miniature Poodle, Poochon, Portuguese Water Dog, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, or a Toy or Miniature Xoloitzcuintli.
Cats: Balinese, Bengal, Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Javanese, LaPerm, Oriental Shorthair, Russian Blue, Siberian and Sphynx.
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