We’ve all heard it: some breeds of dogs and cats are non-allergenic or
hypoallergenic, making them ideal pets for those with allergies and severe
asthma. Unfortunately, it’s a notion too good to be true. “If an animal is alive,
it is not hypoallergenic. There’s no such thing,” says Lilly Byrtus, regional
co-ordinator with the Allergy/Asthma Information Association (AAIA) for the
Prairies, N. W. T. and Nunavut region. “Any animal that has hair, fur or feath-
ers, skin, saliva and urine can cause a reaction.”
A common misconception is the fur of an animal causes reactions, and
hairless breeds or non-shedding breeds are appropriate for those with aller-
gies. Hair or fur can collect allergens, like pollen or dust, however, an animal’s
most allergenic components are its skin, saliva and urine — particularly its
saliva, says Byrtus. “Many animals groom themselves by licking their fur,”
she says. “Then the saliva dries on the fur, and when they move around, these
teeny-tiny particles of saliva flake off and become airborne. Those are highly
allergenic particles that cause severe symptoms for people with respiratory
allergies and asthma.”
The Bichon Frise breed, for example, is often touted as a good option for
allergy sufferers because it doesn’t shed. In reality, it’s a poor choice because it
barks excessively, which produces more saliva.
Just as one person can be allergic to apples and one person can be allergic tooranges, it’s possible to be affected by specific pet breeds, but not necessarilyevery dog or cat.
Inevitably, the best bet for those with severe animal allergies is to cultivatean appreciation for aquarium fish. True, it’s hard to cuddle a goldfish, butaquatic creatures won’t be a constant drain on your health.
When faced with a severe pet allergy, Byrtus says, “nothing is thatcute.” — Shelley Arnusch
All furry petscan causeallergiesAny breed of Fido and Fluffy canlead to sneezing and wheezing