Stop fleeing from fluff

Published: 8 May 2012 09:30

FOR animal lovers who suffer from streaming eyes and a runny nose every time they so much as give their pet a friendly pat, caring for man's best friend can seem like walking an endless tightrope.

The bichon frise has long hair-growth cycles, which typically means it will shed less and therefore is less likely to make you sneeze!

Now, with summer well on its way, everything with fur has inevitably begun to moult. Medicine cupboards are brimming with antihistamines and eye drops and it can seem more like you are trying to earn a medical degree than take care of a pet.

However, there are a handful of hypoallergenic animals that can go a little easier on the sinuses.

.:. The Portuguese water dog has non-shedding qualities which has made it more popular in recent years. A common misconception is that fur causes an allergic reaction, however it has been proven that the shedding of dander (dead skin) is actually the main cause. Portuguese water dogs require so much grooming that their dander is washed away more frequently. It is an active breed with a robust coat and has also claimed fame as the White House canine, Bo Obama, is a Portuguese water dog.

.:. Sphynx cats, while not hypoallergenic per se, these are recommended by experts as better for allergy sufferers - simply because they don't deposit allergen-laden hair. However, it is actually a cat's saliva and skin secretions that cause the bulk of an allergic reaction.

.:. The standard poodle and bichon frise have long hair-growth cycles, which typically means both breeds will shed less. Their coats tend to be both tightly curled, and usually lacking in undercoat, a combination which tends to keep dander and dead hair from detaching and floating into the air.

.:. The Devon rex cat - so named because it was first spotted in 1960 living in Devon - has a short, rippling coat made of down fur. Because they have less fur, the Devon rex is not required to clean itself as frequently and therefore there is less saliva on its coat to cause a reaction.

.:. The American Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, is a popular low-allergen dog. Some experts urge a dog diet that is high in Omega 3 fatty acids to help cut down on allergens. This keeps a pet's skin hydrated, decreasing dander flaking.

.:. Syrian hamsters, the most common pet hamster, are an excellent choice simply because they are generally confined to a small living space and thus do not have constant interaction with the home environment. The same applies to other rodents, such as gerbils, guinea pigs, mice and rats.

.:. Leopard geckos make excellent pets for people with allergies simply because they are hairless and relatively low maintenance. It is extremely uncommon for a person to be allergic to lizards. Leopard geckos in particular are considered extremely easy pets because they are small and have minimal care requirements.

.:. Goldfish are perhaps the only truly hypoallergenic pet. Surely something maintained in a watery enclosure will be as allergen-free as can be?

Of course some animal lovers are determined to have a loyal cat or dog as a companion, in spite of allergies. It is possible to learn to cope with such an affliction in a healthy way, provided you consult your GP to arrange a proper course of medication. It is also advisable to invest in an air purifier, keep certain areas of your home pet-free and clean your living space frequently.

After all, there is nothing quite like having a furry friend by your side as a welcome addition to the family, and it is well worth the odd sniffle.

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