Can you have a dog or cat if you have allergies?
If your nose runs or you sneeze after petting a dog or cat you make have a pet allergy.
Common symptoms of pet allergies include coughing and wheezing, red itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, a rash or hives.
Skin or blood tests (IgE or RAST) can help to narrow down the cause of your allergies. Many people who experience an allergic reaction to pets may find they’re also allergic to other allergen around the home, such as mould or pollen, so it can be beneficial to identify what is causing the allergy before blaming the family pet.
Along with saliva, dander is a common allergen that becomes attached to your pet’s fur. The fur then falls out and lands on your or your furniture, spreading the allergen.
Dogs and cats that shed a lot of fur are more likely to trigger an allergy than pets that shed less.
Long-haired animals are no more likely to trigger an allergy than short-haired animals, it just depends on how prone they are to shedding.
Dust and pollen in a cat’s coat can also cause allergy symptoms. In this case the allergy is to the pollen or dust, not the cat.
Which dogs shed the least?
Some breeds of dog have ‘non-shedding coats’. This means they may drop some hair but don’t shed their undercoat so they release less dander.
Dogs classified as non-shedding include bichon fries, Chinese crested Maltese, poodle schnauzer and Portuguese water dog.
Designer dogs such as a labradoodle are said to be allergy-friendly but they may inherit the Labrador coat instead of the poodle coat which means they can still be prone to dander.
Some breeds of dog are more likely to have hereditary dandruff problems which can trigger allergies.
Cocker spaniels, springer spaniels, basset hounds, Labradors, golden retrievers and German shepherds are known to have dandruff issues.
All cats produce allergens in their saliva, skin and fur but some people may be more allergic to some breeds than others.
Breeds such as the hairless sphinx, Devon rex, oriental short hair, Javanese, Cornish rex and Siberian are said to produce less dander or saliva allergens than other cat breeds.
No cat breed is completely non-allergenic but choosing a different breed may reduce adverse reactions.
Dust mites thrive in dog beds, cat towers and kennels so consider replacing dog beds each year, especially if the bed is somewhere that doesn’t experience air flow such as a garage or laundry.
Living with allergies
Many families choose to keep their pet even when a family member is allergic however, if your allergy is severely impacting your health rehoming your pet may be the best option.
You can reduce the amount of allergens in your home by:
- Play with pets outdoors.
- Keep them out of the bedroom and off the couch.
- Change your clothes after contact.
- Bathe and brush your pet weekly.
- Wash your hands after touching the dog.
- Dust and vacuum often.
- Use an air filter.
- Ask non-allergic family members to change the litter box or clean the animal’s bed.
- Keep floors bare as rugs can trap dander.
- Talk to your doctor or an allergist about options for medicine or immunotherapy.