Erin Doman on April 24, 2015 6 Comments You may love dogs, cats, and other furry critters, but their dander may not love you back. In fact, approximately 15% of the U.S. population experiences dog or cat related allergies. Pet allergies can cause a variety of reactions: from congestion and facial pressure to eczema and hives. If you are caught between being an animal lover and being an allergy sufferer, fear not: there are plenty of breeds of hypoallergenic animals if you’re looking to add a furry, feathered or scaly friend to the family. In this article, we have compiled a list of allergy-friendly pets that would be perfect for your growing home. What is Dander? Animal dander is a common allergen among pet owners, but what is it exactly? Contrary to a certain belief, animal dander is not the fur or hair of the animal itself, but the microscopic skin cells that flake off when the animal sheds. The reason that so many people are allergic to the skin flakes is because they are usually coated in your pets’ saliva from when they groom and clean themselves. The saliva is what we are allergic to — specifically the protein Fel d I from cats and the proteins Can f I and Can f II from dogs. When these animals clean themselves, their saliva and these proteins coat their skin and fur, and when they shed these proteins coat your house and trigger your allergies. Dogs Although there’s no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog, there are several breeds that produce or release less allergens into the air due to their fur and skin composition. For example: Kerry Blue Terrier The Kerry Blue Terrier and similar dogs tend to shed less dander, which is what holds the proteins that cause allergies. Kerry Blue Terriers are medium sized dogs that were once bred for herding and hunting, but today make for great house pets. These dogs have a wavy coat of black and blue fur. Their fur actually lacks an undercoat which is what prevents them from shedding too much. Their fur can grow quite long though, so it requires frequent cuts to maintain. Bichon Frisé Bichon Frisé dogs are a toy breed and do not shed a lot of fur and dander. However, it is extremely important to keep your Bichon Frisé groomed–failure to do so can lead to skin issues with your dog as well as filth that is obvious in your dog’s white fur. Poodle These dogs–which can be toy, miniature, and standard sized–have a curly coat, which makes it harder for dander to reach the air. In fact, this dog does not have fur at all. Poodles grow hair, just like you and me. Be sure to keep this dog’s hair maintained: groom him roughly every two months. Portuguese Water Dog The Portuguese Water Dog is very similar to the Poodle in both looks and intelligence, except it has an even slower growing coat. For this reason, this breed does not require frequent clippings, though you should brush them regularly to avoid any matting or skin irritation. Bergamasco At first glance, these dogs appear to have a coat that requires a lot of maintenance. Bergamascos have thick, matted locks that reach the ground. This felted coat actually does not require a lot of work other than an occasional washing. The thick mats of hair keep most of the dander from releasing into your home. Cats While cats are responsible for more allergies than any other domesticated animal, there are a few breeds that are more tolerated by allergy sufferers. Cornish Rex and Devon Rex These cats have a short coat of down fur. Couple this with the fact that they tend to groom themselves less frequently, and they make for a low-allergy feline friend. Sphynx These bald cats are also a good choice because they don’t shed any fur or hair, so no allergens from the cat’s saliva are able to spread around your home. For their own health, however, these cats require frequent baths (good luck with that!) to get rid of the oils that tend to build up on their skin. Balinese Despite looking like a Siamese with long hair, Balinese cats actually produce significantly less allergy-causing dander than many other cats. This is because this breed produces less of the protein that causes allergic reactions in their saliva, so when they groom themselves they do not release any irritants. An interesting note about the correlation between a cat’s coloration, sex, and the amount of dander they produce is that when it comes to allergen production, dark cats tend to produce more than light-colored cats, intact males produce more than neutered males, and males secrete more allergens than females. Rabbits Rabbits can be tricky when deciding on a breed to join a house full of allergy sufferers. Some rabbits will not create a problem at all while others can be just as bad as dogs and cats. As a general rule, stay away from longhaired bunnies, such as the Angora rabbit. Angora rabbits need a lot of grooming and shed more dander. This breed also tends to collect more dust and lick their fur more often than other breeds, causing allergens to be released into the air. Rex Rex rabbits are often more suited to allergy sufferers than any other mammal. This breed is known for having a low shed count due to the plushness of its fur. For this reason, these rabbits tend to produce less dander. Fish Okay, so fish are not exactly huggable, and you can’t interact with them like you would a cat or dog. However, fish can play an important role in a family–without the risk of allergens. A pet goldfish can lay the foundation to teach young children responsibility. Consider it a stepping stone to gauge their commitment to pet ownership. Depending on your family’s needs, a fish can be a beautiful addition to an allergy-sensitive home. Hamsters, Gerbils, Guinea Pigs and Mice Any furry friend can set allergies off, but these smaller animals that are kept in cages instead of having free-roam of the house are less likely to cause symptoms. That being said, if you suffer from severe allergies, you still might want to avoid these critters. Handling the animals and cleaning their cages can put you in contact with allergens and cause a reaction. If you are unsure of how you would react to one of these animals, you might want to spend some time with the animal at a shelter or pet store to see if you get an allergic reaction before you buy. Turtles, Lizards, Geckos and Iguanas Although there have been rare cases of allergic reactions, exposure to lizards, turtles and other reptiles is generally a safe bet due to their lack of dander. If you do find that you experience allergies around these reptiles, it could actually be to their cage. Some of these cages of these animals–such as the turtle–require moisture which can cause mold in their habitat. Be sure to keep their cages clean to prevent any allergies. Birds Many people who are allergic to dogs and cats do well having a pet bird. While most avian species still have dander and allergens in their saliva or droppings, certain types are worse than others. Cockatoos, Cockatiels and African Greys have a lot of “powder down” which is a powdery substance on their skin and feathers that can be released into the air in your home. Two solutions to decrease the room’s dust are to bathe your bird regularly and keep an air purifier in the room with the cage. To ensure that your air purifier is working at its maximum efficiency, be sure to change the filter often. Pigs Pigs are more than just farm animals–they make fantastic house pets! Because pigs have hair, not fur, they can make for a great pet alternative for allergy sufferers. Pigs are extremely smart and trainable, and they tend to get along well with children and other animals. But take note: all healthy pigs grow to be exceptionally large. Teacup and micro pigs may be cute, but these animals are actually unhealthy. Many small pigs were underfed and had their growth stunted when they were young in order to get them to remain small. The reality is that if you are a responsible pet owner, your pet pig should grow to be over 100 pounds. Do Your Research on Hypoallergenic Pets Remember, getting a pet of any kind is a hefty and long-term commitment. Adopting a pet only to give it away due to allergies can be heartbreaking for you, your children and the pet. Remember to do your research on your allergy sensitivity, the breed of the animal, and any alternative remedies that you would be willing to use before you make the big decision to adopt a new family member. For a more definitive determination of what animals will elicit an allergic response, head to an allergist for testing. Immunoglobulin skin tests, which are the most common type of testing, are relatively painless. After all, your best weapon against pet allergies is a good vacuum, a great air purifier and plenty of research and preparation!