Friday, August 14, 2009

Any ideas for a non-allergic pet?

I was shopping at today and noticed that pet supplies were greatly marked down. The pet supplies on sale ranged from dog beds to multivitamins for reptiles.

I sadly looked at these items and realized that I have no pets as I am allergic to most four-legged animals and even some two-legged animals. We had two wonderful cats but had to find new homes for them after myself and my daughter became violently ill for months on end due to allergies.

I remember growing up with collies and beagles and how much fun it was to have a pet to run around with. Unfortunately, in my household, we are totally pet free. All the other animals I can think of to get seem like no fun or too much trouble. A lizard seems really dull and the last fish we had died. I know this just sounds like a sob story (okay, if this is the worst of my problems, not much going on in my life) but does anyone have any suggestions for allergy-free pets that might be more suitable? Or, if you are pet-free due to allergies, how do you or your kids cope?


Blogger Unknown said...

How about a hedgehog?

9:32 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger K-Man said...

Check with Richard Gere. He might still have a shaved gerbil...


9:44 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Ken said...

There are some dog and cat breeds positioned specifically as hypoallergenic. I know nothing about them other than that they're expensive.

Cockapoos (cocker spaniel-standard poodle crossbreeds) are anecdotally recommended for allergic people who want pets. One of my siblings has one, and it seems to be going okay so far (caveat: I don't know how violently allergic family members are).

You might consider fostering a rescue animal and trying Zyrtec, assuming you haven't already? That way you could try it out without a permanent commitment. Lots of animal rescue organizations looking for foster homes, especially in metropolitan areas.

10:31 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger rustbelt said...

You might consider trying a persian/himilayan cat. They don't have much dander due to them keeping their hair for a long time. My wife is very allergic to cats (will get a rash if she gets cat saliva on her skin), but doesn't have any problems at all with the himis.

10:34 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger designslave said...

Labradoodles and golden doodles are supposed to be hypoallergenic.

10:38 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Ken said...

What designslave said. I had a complete brainfart on my original post -- I don't know why I said cockapoo. The right breed is labradoodle (golden doodle would be about the same thing).

Missed it by that much. (RIP, Don Adams)

10:43 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger BarryD said...

Desert tortoises are cool. They can be affectionate, and their antics surprisingly amusing.

They hibernate in Winter, so you don't have to deal with them part of the year. Makes it more fun when they wake up.

Not sure about the climate in Tennessee, though. We had them in the Southwest.

11:54 AM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger vivictius said...

I haven't heard of anyone that has allergic reactions to pet rocks.

12:03 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Armed Texan said...

I wholly recommend Poodles. They do not shed and are very intelligent and trainable dogs. You can get them in a variety of sizes that range from standards that can be as big as the largest labs to miniatures that can be as small as 5 pounds. The biggest down side to poodles is the grooming. You have to clip them at least every other month. If you are just keeping them as pets though, you could easily have them professionally groomed once or twice a year and maintain them between groomings with a cheap pair of electric clippers.

If the mister thinks that poodles are not masculine, you can point out that they do not have to have the poofy cuts and they are great hunting dogs.

12:24 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Whiskey said...

The allergic reaction is from the dander. While I can't speak to cats, some of the terriers are hypo-allergenic. They DO shed, but not dander. ALL Dogs shed, but the wire-haired terriers (and Poodles) don't shed dander which is what makes people miserable.

Airedales are wonderful pets for kids, very bouncy, like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. Happy Clowns. Beautiful dogs. Same with Kerry Blue Terriers, Irish Terriers, Welsh, and Lakeland terriers, and of course Wire Fox Terriers. Airedales get along with other dogs the best, and it's common to see Airedales and Fox terriers paired together, the Airedales are very tolerant of the Foxies bossiness.

All the terriers have minds of their own, lots of energy, and like to dig, and are prey-driven so you have to be prepared for that. They are very funny and sweet however. Airedales are the biggest and smartest of the terriers (I had two plus a fox terrier) and love to tease -- other animals, people, etc. All the terriers need exercise -- they're not like Greyhounds or Whippets who will run around the yard for half an hour then crash on the couch for the rest of the day. They will get into mischief otherwise, and you need to keep the trash closed so they don't get into it.

I highly recommend rescue organizations.

FWIW, I am very allergic to cats (as was my father) but we both tolerated Airedales and Fox Terriers fine.

12:44 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

Our oldest daughter, when young, got conned (along with wife and me) into "allergy testing" which the lying bastard said would not hurt, but which were terribly painful (I am surprised they are allowed under the Geneva Conventions).The first round didn't disclose the cause of the problem so we were talking to her about doing the next series.

She declined, saying "they'll probably show that I am allergic to cats, and I don't want to hear that."

Smart kid.

In my case, when I was small, the doctor told my mother that I had an allergy. Mom told him he would have to do better than that--we could not afford allergies.

1:00 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

Assuming that dogs and cats are out of the question, why not go for a small menagerie? Like you, I find some lizards to be too boring (iguanas, for instance). And, snakes can be boring while they're not feeding. However, every animal has its unique characteristics.

For examples, anoles (a small kind of lizard) can change color and climb some walls. They are inexpensive, easy to care for, and, when kept in somewhat larger numbers (like 10 to 15), are fun to watch.

Emerald tree boas (definitely not a snake for beginners or the cheap) are absolutely gorgeous snakes that live in trees and eat, among other things, birds (which is amazing sight to see). They are a bit more difficult to care for as they are particularly aggressive and not the smallest of boas, but they are, in my opinion and experience, great animals.

Tarantulas, not all of which are poisonous, with their interesting house-building and feeding behaviors, are easy to care for, inexpensive, and not long-lived (and if you decided you want to get rid of them, well, who's really going to object if you kill a bug?). There is also a huge variety of them to choose from.

Some larger birds make for nice pets. If you were truly interested in a new, and fun, hobby and wanted to dedicate time, and a good amount of money, to it and provide some nice learning opportunities, you might try falconry (though you would have to get training and get a license).

And of course, there are many different kinds of fish. Have you tried creating a saltwater tank? They're a lot of work but are definitely, in my opinion, worth the effort. The selection of pets available to you when you have a saltwater tank is extraordinary. Of course, it does, as I mentioned, require a bit of work to build and maintain.

Then, of course, there are the less, but not entirely non-, exotic pets, like raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Raccoons are hard pets to keep due to their ability to get into just about everything, with skunks you get the risk of rabies, and foxes have a smell to them (but they are fun).

When you get away from dogs, cats, small rodents, small birds, and small fish, you really do need to do your homework to decide whether owning animals is worth your time and something that you're capable of doing properly. If you buy a dog and decide that you can't keep it, chances are that someone out there might want it. If you buy something a little more out of the ordinary, chances are that you won't be able to find a home for it if you don't want to or can't keep it. Please do take this into consideration.

1:03 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Laughingdog said...

Tibetan Mastiffs are supposed to be hypoallergenic as well. Also, the thick coat isn't that big of a concern because they only shed once a year.

1:21 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Todd said...

If you do decide to get a dog (highly recommended as dogs really are "man's best friend") then I would strongly suggest a smaller sized one. They are just as much fun as the bigger breeds and not nearly as expensive or time consuming. I grew up with large dogs and thought I wanted big dogs when I got out on my own. I compromised with my wife and got a small dog (10 lbs). It was plenty of dog. We currently have two 5 lbs-ers and they are more than plenty of dog for us. The benefits are: they are still outstanding watch dogs (you want alert barkers, not attack dogs), they are far less expensive to feed, far easier to maintain (wash, groom, etc.) and their crates (for sleeping, etc.) take up far less room than the larger dogs.

In closing, every home should have a dog, think small :) and good luck in your search!

1:23 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Bonnie said...

As someone else pointed out, the fur isn't the problem - dander is (dander is shed skin - like dandruff). My fiance and his dad are horribly allergic to cats and birds (which shed skin, too - I found that out when my cockatiel left a bird-shaped print on a mirror that he flew into several years ago), but they have a Scottish terrier that they both tolerate so well that the dog sleeps with them with no problem. Welsh terriers are low-dander animals, too (if I remember correctly), and require less grooming than Scotties and some of the other breeds (like poodles, which were also mentioned).

With any mammal that you get, you're going to have to worry about dander, it's just that some of them shed less dander than others.

I have leopard geckos in addition to my cats and birds, and they're really fun and interesting, especially at feeding time. Some of them even tolerate being handled frequently (my larger male, Ike, even likes having his back scratched - it's cute, he arches up like a cat).

Good luck! Zyrtec, by the way, is awesome. I wouldn't be able to survive without it because of seasonal allergies.

1:44 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wheaton Terriers are supposedly hypoallergenic. They are not small, but the one I know is cute, friendly, fun and mild mannered.

BTW, I just watched your PJTV interview with Toby Young. I want to point you and Glenn to this great article by David Warren on two books (with a third one on the way) on the spread of male hatred (misandry:

1:52 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've always heard that poodles and wire-haired fox terriers are relatively dander free. We had a silky terrier (long human-like hair) that did not shed and did not have much dander. It would be good to have the option of a trial period if you decide on one of these breeds to see whether you react too strongly.

My daughter-in-law is very allergic to pet dander. She also is a dog trainer and has worked at zoos all over the country in the past several years with plenty of exposure to all kinds of dander. Her solution is to get allergy shots and take meds. She won't give up the animals. She and our son have 3 cats and 1 dog (beagle).

Also, all pets are trouble (some more so than others) and have their times of being no fun. And cats and dogs will cost you a significant amount of money over time if you are a responsible owner.

Best wishes as you decide what to do.

1:59 PM, August 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. Not everyone gets to have a pet. Life isn't fair.

2:38 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Indigo Red said...

As pointed out already, there's no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet of the mammal type.

My father had a horrible alergy to horses in usual home environments. He had no adverse reaction to horses at horse shows and races. These animals are bathed at least once a day.

A friend had a dog for which he had an alergy. The dog was groomed and bathed at least once a week and the alergy was manageable.

Alergies and mammal pets do mix, but with a cost.

4:32 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...

To all,

Thanks so much for the feedback and links to some animals I didn't even consider like the anoles. It's quite cute. Still, not sure I am into any kind of lizard but it's something to consider. I would love a dog but as Professor Hale above states, "life isn't fair."

4:57 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Frank said...

One thing you might try is an old Adelle Davis trick. I used to be very allergic to cats, but found that taking Vitamin B-5 cured me. I've since recommended it successfully to at least 4 people with the same problem.

Two things to note. It needs to be just B-5, not a B-complex. I think the problem is that your metabolism's ratio in the B vitamins isn't correct, so the B-complex pills don't help. The other is that you don't have to stay on it forever. You can take doses regularly and eventually taper off.

I don't have cats anymore, but in hay fever season I still take a B-5 pill when I start sneezing badly.

Of course you should try this out by taking the pills and then visiting a friend with pets to see if it works on you and your daughter before getting a pet. Good luck!

5:05 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger DarcsFalcon said...

My husband has allergies, and he found that poodles are great pets because they don't have fur, they have hair, so they don't have the dander issues that other breeds have.

Hope that helps. :)

5:20 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Lindsey said...

If you get a toy poodle, they have the added benefit of being omyfreakinggawd so adorable. And I am a tiny dog hater.

5:50 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Menahem Globus said...

A lot of people with allergies have no problems with a Samoyed. They are double coated and that keeps the dander in. Mine was an absolute joy and despite the long hair didn't shed aside from on his bed.

6:20 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Menahem Globus said...

I forgot to mention this, from a survivalist perspective a Samoyed is also a great pet. If society collapses and you are forced into the wilderness he can catch rabbits and groundhogs for you and his hair can be made into yarn.

6:22 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger wahsatchmo said...

Have you thought about a Pleo Dinosaur?

Of course, the hubby would probably want to strap rockets to its back and buy a Roomba vacuum for it to fight, so maybe that's out of the question.

8:08 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Doom said...

I happened to obtain a pet, quite unexpectedly, which entertained me very well. You cannot take it for a walk, and there is some upkeep though less than a fish, but...

My cousin, while he was living with me, enjoyed having fish. He purchased several and put them in a 10 gallon tank. Now, when he was buying them, a crawdad accidentally got in the bag of fish. The worker indicated that they did not sell those, so my cousin could keep it if he wanted. He did want it, at first.

But the thing, initially quite small and missing a claw, grew. The missing claw was restored as well. And it did not eat fish food after a certain point. The critter, which came to be known as Rocky, preferred live food. And it proceeded to consume a fair number of my cousin's pricey little fish and a mini frog. We never did see remnants, and he was too small to eat whole fish, so we suspect the other fish also cannibalized.

He was so angry he wanted to flush it. Being the softy that I can be, I asked if he would simply give it to me, which he did.

I bought a ten gallon tank for it, filled it with extra lava rock (or whatever they say is best), and tried to give it a bit of a playground. I thought it would be a boring pet. It wasn't. It did all sorts of things. It was like a little contractor, bulldozing for a pit here, piling up rock there, and doing odd little things. I fed him goldfish and other inexpensive little fish. It was fun to watch it 'fish'. And, if I would put my hand near the tank, with index and thumb out, it would challenge me. Sometimes running right into the glass in an attempt to close the distance.

It lived about 3 years, maybe a little more. And I grew to really like it. I set the tank up right beside my computer desk, as back then that is where I spent most of my days. For a lonely old grump, it was a little bit of life. I wouldn't call it a friend though, as I am quite sure it would have pinched me in a second should I get close enough. Oh, and do not bother with plants or other fish. He would rip apart and eat both big plants and larger fish I tried to introduce as co occupants. I never did find a fish big enough for the tank that was safe from him. I did not see him eat those, ever, oddly, they either disappeared or I would find remains. I bet that would have been interesting to watch though.

Weird, I know. But I will be getting one again as soon as I find a house and settle in, perhaps several. And an extra tank so that I may keep plenty of feeder fish on hand.

8:34 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I've had fish off and on thru the yesrs. (I have a dog now.) And, find fish quite soothing to watch in the tank. Plus, they don't shed, bark or climb to the top of your refrigerator.

10:40 AM, August 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dadvocate, snake heads can do all those things, and they're fish. The best of both worlds!

12:33 PM, August 15, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

I'd go with a pterodactyl. They are cute and lovable, yet have no fur or pet dander.

12:42 PM, August 15, 2009  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I watched a show about the snakehead infestation. Quite worry some. I hope they find a way to exterminate them.

1:52 PM, August 15, 2009  
Blogger TavisBC said...

I am allergic, but am aware of several breeds that do not evoke the reaction. Obama's dog search dealt with same issues as one of the children is allergic. You may remember that from 2 months of coverage, or you may have blanked that out for the sake of sanity.

I recommend the old English sheep dog, though Portuguese Water Dogs and some poodles are supposed to be likewise gifted.

8:24 PM, August 15, 2009  
Blogger Spacebunny said...

First of all, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog - or cat for that matter. Scientifically speaking they simply do not exist. That being said there is anecdotal evidence for a few breeds causing no or less severe allergic reactions in some people - however this cannot be extrapolated across the entire breed. Secondly, it is NOT just the dander that is the allergen, but also the saliva and to a lesser extent fecal matter. So if your dog licks you (or itself and you pet it) you are going to be exposed to the allergens, an overly vocal dog who barks excessively is also potentially problematic for those who are severely allergic.

All that being said, as mentioned there are several breeds of dog that based on anecdotal evidence cause fewer problems.

6:48 AM, August 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, snakeheads are bad. I hope they find a way to eradicate them.

Ummm, cats? I would never have guessed cats as the pets of choice in the insta family homestead. Rhodesian Ridge Backs, sure. But cats?

Huh. Can't post unless you allow cookies. Didn't realize that before.

7:10 AM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

I'd use the term hypoallergenic sparingly. It was concocted by the advertising community and there is no scientific standard associated with it.

9:11 AM, August 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a boa constrictor in college (me, not her). The only problem with keeping a boa is that they are cold blooded and seek warmth. If she got out of her cage, she would silently slither to the radiator, an electric blanket or my electric alarm clock.

One day I woke up and thought my prayers had been answered. WOW!

To repeat: WOW!

But never any sneezing. Only reason I bring it up.

3:16 PM, August 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Helen: There is a product called Allerpet C, a once-a-week bath for cats, which keeps the dander (and the sufferer's allergic reaction) well under control. It even works with our Maine Coon, who is the biggest, hairiest cat we've ever had.

3:17 PM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Parakeets make great pets! I have allergies to dogs and cats, but none to my bird's feathers. They're very affectionate, sing along with music, but aren't too noisy. They're also very easy to take care of. My old parakeet liked to sit on my shoulder while I was on the computer, and she even enjoyed wandering across the keyboard while I was typing (she was too light to push the keys down).

4:09 PM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger Orwell's Ghost said...

If you search youtube for hedgehogs, you'll see they are rather adorable and silly (see what they do with paper tubes). The quills are soft and they like to cuddle.

When I lived in Florida, geckos were very amusing to watch; the males have a mating ritual where they inflate a throat sac and then do pushups very fast. They can climb walls and are curious.

4:27 PM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger Vader said...

I think pet rocks are fairly nonallergenic.

On the other hand, why bother?

4:38 PM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

Kent beat me to it, so I'll say "an imaginary pet." Seriously, I hate pets. (My oldest brings her dog(s) [and sometimes cat(s)] over sometimes and after just a few minutes, I'm ready to kill them.)

6:00 PM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger shhertica said...

We have had reptiles and, sadly, they were not very warm or cuddly. We started with a huge dog that was way too much dog for my younger children, and then ended up with a wonderful Jack Russell. My daughter got a cat a few years later and my son developed allergies (grasses, weeds, pollens dust mites, cats, dogs, etc.) around that time. We keep the cat out of his room. He went a few years with constant runny nose, congestion & sinus infections & his DX evolved from intermittent asthma to Asthma. He was put on Advair twice daily and decided to start allergy desensitization injections, under the care of an allergist. He went off to college, continued the injections and valiantly tried to wean himself off the Advair to no avail. He would wake in the night gasping for breath without it. A year and a half later, we still have the animals, (the dog has always slept in his room, the cat made him symptomatic in the past but less so now). He went totally off the Advair this summer after he returned home from college, and is continuing the shots for probably 1 more year. The goal of the shots was enable my son NOT to need daily medication and it seems to have worked. My son’s uncle & cousin did the same thing 20 years ago & still have not returned to needing daily medication and his cousin has a dog in the household.

• Cats seem to cause a greater reaction, I would avoid them.
• I think poodles have hair not fur (& maybe greyhounds or whippets?) most people are allergic to pet dander which is supposed to be less if you eliminate the fur.
• Keep the pet out of the allergic person’s room. Children tend to ignore this rule, if they can still breath after doing so.
• I’m partial to smaller dogs, shorter fur.
• Consider desensitization injections. My son didn’t really have issues until mid high school; my mother is allergic to anything & everything but never got the injections because her health plan (at the time) talked her out of it, stressing the possibility of massive anaphylactic shock & death. We started with 1 insurance, then switched to a HMO, that also attempted to talk us out of it, but ended up continuing the injection program at our request. The allergists I talked to in the PPO mode stressed the anaphylactic potential much less than the HMO. Mostly, the shots have been administered by his college, except during the summer and Christmas. The college apparently administers quite a lot of allergy injections. The only time he had a problem with the injections was when, on the advice of the College Health Center Allergy Nurse, my son got a flu shot on Friday and had a systemic reaction (rash & lightheadedness) to his allergy shot the following Tuesday. Spent the day in the local ER but started the shots back up a few weeks later and has not had issues since. Medical folk assure us that the flu shot had nothing to do with the reaction, but he has decided not to get another.

1:53 PM, August 17, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

OK Helen. I'm late to this, but here you go. Mantids. Easy to get, easy to feed, interesting to watch and interact with. Over the years I've raised hundreds of species and some are not only exotic, but take a good leap past bizarre.

If you think you're actually interested, you gots my email. I'll be glad to give you advice on types you might find interesting.

11:00 PM, August 17, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

well, before buying another pet and than giving it away again, you should think really carefully about what kind of pet to get.

3:46 AM, August 18, 2009  
Blogger davidvs said...

Allergy-safe dogs have already been mentioned.

Something smaller (but not short-lived) is a chichilla. They love to take "baths" in the dust used to clean coats, which removes their dander.

A snake can be nice as a kid's pet. Many want nothing more in life than to be held curled up in or around warm hands. It's not true affection, but it can be nice.

10:15 AM, August 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it actually possible to be allergic to another human being? You know, dander wise, like with other animals?

7:11 PM, August 18, 2009  
Blogger Ignorance is Bliss said...

Hedgehogs are supposed to be good. Check your state laws, they are illegal in some states. Also, they tend to be nocturnal. You can wake them to play with during the day, but otherwise sleep during the day and run at night.

10:59 PM, August 18, 2009  
Blogger Eric said...

My first reaction is to suggest a turtle. Last year a friend gave me a mud turtle, and it lives quite harmoniously in an aquarium with a plecostomus (an eccentric looking sucker mouth catfish). Endlessly amusing, takes food from my hand, easy to care for. Turtles can be left alone during vacations. They're more endearing than you might think, too!

10:22 AM, August 19, 2009  

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