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Pets: Allergy sufferers can have pets, too

4/5/2017, 8 a.m.
Allergies are among the most chronic conditions worldwide, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Though many ...

Allergies are among the most chronic conditions worldwide, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Though many of us love companion animals, some pets, especially cats and dogs, can cause allergic reactions in people.

Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained why some people are allergic to cats and dogs.

“People are typically allergic to the dander and saliva of dogs and cats,” Stickney said. “Cats groom themselves more than dogs, so more people are allergic to cats and have more severe symptoms than those allergic to dogs.”

Though hypoallergenic pets have become more popular, Stickney said recent evidence has shown that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat. However, there are several breeds of dogs and cats that are purported to cause less severe allergic reactions.

“A few examples of dogs that may cause less allergic reactions include labradoodles, bichon fries, poodles, and Portuguese water dogs,” Stickney said. “Some examples of cats include Devon rex, Siamese, and Sphynx.”

If being around cats and dogs is a must, Stickney said there are some ways to alleviate pet allergies. Some options include bathing your pet weekly, getting a HEPA filter for your home, designating a “pet-free” room or area of your house, washing pet beds frequently, dusting and vacuuming your house regularly, and washing your hands after handling a pet. Seeing a physician about allergy treatment options also may help.

Additionally, Stickney said some allergy sufferers can consider pets that are not known to cause allergies, such as lizards, ferrets, rats, and birds. However, Stickney reminds pet owners to do their research before getting a new pet.

“None of these animals should be ‘impulse buys’,” he said. “They all have unique husbandry and health care requirements.”

While allergies may affect our choice in pets, everyone can find a pet fit for them, even allergy sufferers.