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Your Happy Pet: Allergy sufferers can own pets

Original Publication Date: March 3, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

The warmth and affection shared by snuggling with your dog or cat is a heartwarming experience that can make your spirits soar.

But a whopping 15 to 30 percent of folks in this country are allergic to the dander, hair and saliva of dogs and cats.

Many are frustrated pet lovers who feel they can never comfortably cuddle with a furry friend. While some suffer severe allergic reactions to pets, many are more moderately affected.

There is good news for these pet lovers.

There are no completely hypoallergenic pets, but there are several breeds that tend to create fewer allergic reactions.

Malia Obama's pet allergies caused the first family to face the problem of finding a hypoallergenic pet. They received the gift of a Portuguese water dog, Bo, from Senator Ted Kennedy.

Bo fit their hypoallergenic requirements so well that Sunny, a second Portuguese water dog, now lives in the White House.

Portuguese water dogs have little dander and a tight coat that sheds less than many breeds. These are qualities that make them wonderful pets for a person who suffers from allergies to pet hair and dander.

Poodles are another popular breed that is considered hypoallergenic. You also have the option of considering miniature and standard. Several poodle hybrid dogs like the labradoodle also fall into the hypoallergenic category.

Cats tend to incite allergic reactions more than dogs, perhaps because they spend more time in close contact with their owners and spread saliva to their coats as they lick to clean.

There are fewer hypoallergenic cat breeds than dog breeds. Devon rex cats are high on the list to consider as they have less hair than many other breeds so spend less time cleaning themselves. Another hypoallergenic cat breed is the sphinx cat, which is basically hairless.

Some consider other pets like birds, turtles or fish to cope with their allergy problems. Birds can be very sweet and interactive but do have dander that can cause an allergic reaction. Turtles and fish lack dander and hair and can be entertaining companions but are less likely to show affection.

There are several options if you are looking for a hypoallergenic pet. When choosing a pet that won't trigger your allergies, don't forget to consider one that matches your personality.

A good dog or cat breeder will gladly discuss the temperament of his or her breed. If you are laid back and enjoy quiet time, you may want a pet that likes to cuddle. A high-energy dog that is constantly on the move may not fit your lifestyle.

Do your homework if you are looking for a hypoallergenic pet. Search the Internet for the several breeds that are considered hypoallergenic.

Visit the breed you are contemplating several times for at least an hour. That will give you an accurate picture of any allergic reaction and if your personalities are in sync.

The good news is that a pet allergy does not have to preclude having a loving companion in your life.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at