When deciding on the right pet for your family, make sure you don’t associate an animal's shedding with allergens. Dr. Thomas Edling, vice president of veterinary medicine at Petco, explains further. “The allergens that cause children to be allergic to animals in general come from the dander which is the material released from the body composed of skin cells. [It’s] the normal act of skin cells being released from the body but an animal with a healthy skin will produce less dander.”
How do we know if a particular animal will be a good fit? The only surefire way to determine if an animal will bring about an allergic reaction is for the person to spend time with the animal and wait for a reaction, says Dr. Edling. He also points out that an animal’s fur can pick up dust, pollen and other allergens that end up causing the allergic reaction and not the animal’s dander itself. “Wiping the animal’s fur clean with a gentle wipe will reduce the environmental allergens and reduce the reaction of the person.”
Here are our top-10 pets for kids with allergies:
A small mammal such as a rat is an excellent match for allergy sufferers. With minimal hair and confined to a cage, a rat is surprisingly quite the social butterfly and enjoys being handled. This intelligent rodent will win you and your kids over with its antics — guaranteed.
A perfect fit for families who don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to more-demanding animals. A goldfish or a whole aquarium full of fish can be the ideal choice for kids with allergies and can be every bit as rewarding as a four-legged pet. Dr. Edling explains that fish and aquatic life are the least-allergic animals and says, “The water keeps the allergens from the animal from coming into contact with the child, unless the child comes in contact with the water.”
For a slightly less-ordinary pet, why not add a pet iguana to your family? Because of their skin type, reptiles and amphibians do not release allergens into the surrounding area as readily as mammals, notes Dr. Edling. And if you look at them long enough, iguanas are kind of cute!
Smart, eager to please and one of the best cuddlers around, the Havanese dog breed is one of the most popular for those prone to allergies. With no undercoat to shed, the gentle and social Havanese tends to produce less dander, making life with a dog much easier to bear for allergy sufferers. And who can resist a face like that?
If cats are more your thing, the Devon Rex cat might be just what you’ve been waiting for. The low-allergen Devon Rex has no undercoat and less fur in general, meaning it will shed less, thus less dander. For reasons unknown, light-colored female cats tend to produce fewer allergens.
Birds can trigger allergic reactions due to dander and dust, so steer clear of cockatoos, cockatiels and African gray parrots, says Dr. Edling if allergies are an issue for your family. Instead, look into the colorful Green-cheek Conure, a medium-sized parrot native to South America that produces little to no dust.
If a larger dog is more your style, the Irish Water Spaniel has a tightly curled water-repellent coat that barely sheds. If allergies are an issue, this energetic breed might be the perfect addition to your family.
One of the most-interesting looking dog breeds out there, the Chinese Crested comes in a hairless variety, making it a popular choice for those who cannot tolerate extreme amounts of fur. While it still produces dander, keeping the dog clean and moisturized will cut down on the amount. Just don’t forget to protect its sensitive skin on sunny days!
For kids fascinated by amphibians, a colorful frog would make a welcome addition to your brood. A small tank with a secure lid won’t take up much space, and your kids will get a kick out of setting up its environment with branches, gravel, moss and more.
If a living and breathing pet isn’t an option for your family, try a Pet Rock instead. It’s an affordable, silly “pet” that requires absolutely no care and even comes with a certificate of authenticity. Best part is that a portion of each sale goes to a shelter to help a real live pet in need.
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