We spoke with Betsy Saul, co-founder of Petfinder.com, the largest online database of adoptable pets, about the best ways for pet lovers to keep their pets while coping with those pesky allergy symptoms.
Would you give your kids away if they frequently triggered your allergies? Of course not! And you probably aren't willing to give up your beloved pup or feline, either. In a spring 2010 poll of its Facebook fans and friends, Petfinder.com posed the question: "Would you ever consider giving up a pet because of allergies?" More than 350 devoted pet parents responded saying, "No way. My pet is here to stay."
The answer doesn't shock Saul. "Honestly, I would have been surprised if people had said they would give away their animals because of allergy issues," she says. "A key part of our mission here at Petfinder.com is to elevate the status of pets to that of family members -- and we continue to see pets becoming a more integral part of families' lives every day." Even when pets present challenges, true pet lovers prevail and find ways to accommodate for the wellbeing of everyone in the family, pets included.
Though some furry friends are likely to cause severe allergic reactions, some breeds are more tolerable, like these hypoallergenic dog breeds. Saul advises, "It might be best for a family with allergies to look for a hairless or single-coated dog breed, such as the poodle or the schnauzer. Interested? Petfinder.com currently has more than 3,000 poodles and 1,500 schnauzers available for adoption."
For families who haven't yet brought a pet into the home, Saul recommends that they visit the pet before adoption to determine if it will trigger an allergic reaction. "There is no such thing as a 100 percent allergy-free pet," she explains. "However, there is still so much to gain from becoming a pet parent. A pet will give you unconditional love and become a lifetime companion to you and your family."
Understanding allergy causes is important in learning to effectively manage their symptoms. According to Saul, glands in the animal's skin secrete tiny allergy-triggering proteins, called allergens, that linger in the animal's fur. "When the protein attaches itself to dried skin, called dander, it can flake off and float through the air," says the pet expert. "Allergens are also present in the animal's saliva and urine, and may become airborne when saliva dries on the fur." Because every person is different, allergic reactions vary widely.
Saul is quick to put pet allergies into perspective. "Taking steps to manage allergy symptoms is a small price to pay to protect such an important relationship," she says. She offers the following ideas for families with pet allergies:
Managing pet allergies has an added bonus: it will can keep your home cleaner and improve its air quality.
If your kids have pet allergies, they may outgrow them. Even if your children's allergy symptoms are minor, talk to their pediatrician about the pros and cons of adopting a pet and whether medication can help, if needed. "Another option is to consider more allergy-friendly pets such as fish, snakes, iguanas, lizards and turtles," says Saul. "These animals can also be found and adopted through Petfinder.com."
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