It's common knowledge that pets give us more than just love and happiness, they are also known to elevate our mental health and offer loyalty and companionship. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, pets can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. However, while some rave about the life-changing experience of owning a pet, allergy sufferers beg to differ. In fact, for those who experience overbearing allergy symptoms, having a pet can feel more like a prison sentence. But, it doesn’t always have to be this way.
What causes animal allergies
Allergies occur when a sensitive immune system reacts to allergens in the environment. The immune system assumes these allergens to be threatening to the body and therefore triggers those pesky allergy symptoms. In the case of pet allergies, proteins that are found in a pet’s dead skin cells (known as dander) spread through small particles that are produced by warm-blooded animals.
The myth of hypoallergenic pets
Many pets and pet breeds are considered hypoallergenic because they have less hair, therefore producing less dander. However, pet allergies are caused from more than just hair particles. In fact, dander can be found in excrements and saliva. Still, some dander producing pets can co-exist with allergy sufferers in harmony. When it comes to warm-blooded animals, the shedding of dander particles is unavoidable, therefore there isn’t any specific breed that can truly be classified as hypoallergenic.
Small animals such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs can make for great pets, but they do not fall into the hypoallergenic category. While these animals are known to produce dander, they are small and spend most of their time in their cages. Therefore, transmission of allergens is minimal as the dander can be secluded to the area of the house in which they reside.
If a small pet is your calling, but you suffer from allergies, keep their cage in a room with less foot traffic to avoid symptoms.
While they’re known to bring luck, they are also known to bring dander. Birds can produce allergy-irritating proteins that can rapidly spread due to their flapping wings. Nonetheless, those with pet allergies can live in a house with birds, so long as the cage is cleaned daily by someone who does not have allergies.
Reptiles and amphibians are cold blooded animals, hence, they do not produce dander like warm-blooded animals. While they’re not soft and furry, reptiles and amphibians have been known to have therapeutic effects on pet owners and can make for wonderful emotional support animals.
If you’re looking to add peace and tranquility to your life, look no further than our friends the fish. As fish live in the water, they do not produce any allergens and their maintenance is considerably low. Fish aquariums can be a beautiful addition to your home, and continuously adding tropical fish to it can be therapeutic and can reduce both blood pressure and muscle tension.
Cats and dogs
Small dogs require less space around the house, and consequently spread less dander than larger dogs. Dogs that are considered “Hypoallergenic” are also a great choice for allergy sufferers, even though they are not 100% allergy free. Although they produce dander, their tight, curly hair helps to trap in the dander and frequent grooming requirements prevent the spread of irritants.
Cats are known for their grooming habits, hair balls and all the extra fluff. As they frequently groom themselves, cats voluntarily remove dander particles from their skin. These irritants subsequently linger on their saliva and float in the air, causing a rapid spread of dander in the house. Some cats however are still considered hypoallergenic as they have less hair, meaning less grooming is required and the opportunity for the spread of dander decreases.
Overcoming your allergies
It’s all fine and dandy (pun intended) until someone gets the allergy sneezes. If you’re considering getting a pet, despite your allergies, be sure to do the proper research and think outside the box, to ensure that you find your forever friend. Small life adjustments such as vacuuming, and dusting your house daily, along with cleaning cages, pet beds and regularly grooming your pet can help to keep those floating particles away while keeping your allergies at bay.