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Is there really such a thing as hypoallergenic pets?

Last Modified: December 16, 2021

Family Medicine

hypoallergenic pets

This post was written by Heather Willison, MSN, FNP-C, PPG – Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and mother to four cats.

There is nothing better than snuggling with a fluffy kitten or puppy, until your nose runs, eyes itch, and you break out in hives or a rash, and maybe even have difficulty breathing. An estimated 10% of the population has an animal-related allergy. People with severe pet allergies may even experience reactions in public places if dander has been transported on a pet owner’s clothing.

I often have patients tell me that their dog has hair, rather than fur, and this makes them hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, hypoallergenic pets don’t exist regardless of what breeders may claim.  The allergic symptoms people might experience when around animals is actually caused by a protein that is found in the skin (dander), saliva and urine of the animal.

But it’s not all bad news! Some pets do produce less of this protein. The trick is finding a breed that the allergy sufferer in your home can tolerate. To date, there is no scientific evidence available that supports one breed over another. 

Living with your pet (and your symptoms)

If you already know that being around a cat, dog or other animal, makes you miserable, it would be in your best interest to avoid bringing that pet into the home. If the symptoms come on after you get the animal, rehoming is an option, though it can be heartbreaking for the entire family. In fact, I am the last person who would tell you to immediately remove them. My grandfather, the late Dr. Forrest McClead, a well-respected veterinarian in the area, would roll over in his grave if I suggested such a thing!

Try these tricks to help better tolerate your furry family members:

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom when possible, and wash linens in hot water weekly
  • Keep pets off of the furniture (when your pet laughs at this suggestion, at least cover their favorite chair or couch with a sheet or blanket, and launder it weekly)
  • Brush and bathe them frequently (this should be done by another family member, preferably outdoors)
  • Vacuum twice weekly and consider replacing carpet with hard surface flooring
  • Consider investing in a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to trap dander

Of course, when symptoms present, you should consider scheduling an appointment with an allergist.  Allergists can offer testing to confirm the pet allergy and suggest appropriate therapies that might enable you to live with your four-legged friend without having to buy stock in tissues. These therapies might include medication or immunotherapy.  Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, can provide long term relief from allergy symptoms. 


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