Do hypoallergenic cats and dogs actually exist? Scientists have bad news

Yulia PoteriankoNews
Allergens are found not only in animal hair. Source: Created with the help of AI

Getting a cat or dog is a dream that many of us have since childhood. However, allergies can often stand in the way, and in this case, we start looking for a hypoallergenic breed.

But, according to Inverse, scientists have bad news for those who pin their hopes on this. According to statistics, 10 to 20 percent of people are sensitive to proteins secreted by animal hair or saliva. And it seems that there are no pets that do not secrete these proteins.

Can a pet be completely hypoallergenic?

According to Sandra Koch, a veterinarian and professor of comparative dermatology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, the human immune system can react hostilely to several types of proteins found in the saliva, skin particles, or fur of animals. The body perceives these proteins as if they were bacteria or viruses and attacks them. This results in many unpleasant symptoms, such as sneezing, itching, or coughing.

Some breeds of cats, such as naked or barely coated Cornish Rexes and Sphynxes, and dogs such as naked terriers, poodles, Bichon Frise, and Schnauzers, are thought to be "relatively unlikely" to cause allergic reactions. They do not shed much and, accordingly, do not secrete potentially dangerous proteins. But a little is not the same as no proteins at all. A sensitive person can still suffer.

According to Koch, dogs can produce allergens in the blood, prostate, and anal glands, while cats produce such proteins in the sebaceous glands of the skin, anal glands, and blood. Male cats also excrete them in the urine.

Allergens contained in saliva are a particular problem. When cats and dogs groom themselves, they spread these proteins throughout their bodies. These compounds can hang in the air for several days. That is, even if you have purchased a bald animal, you are not at all protected from this type of allergen.

What do the study results say?

Scientists collected data on the content of allergens in the air of a house with a hypoallergenic and a normal dog. They found no differences in the allergen content.

In addition, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers analyzed hair samples from 196 hypoallergenic dogs and 160 non-hypoallergenic dogs, as well as dust samples from the air of homes where the animals lived. Scientists were looking for the main sources of Can f 1, the most common dog allergen. And they found it "in almost all hair samples". The same conclusions were reached by researchers who published data in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy in 2011.

In the case of cats, the difference between conventional and hypoallergenic breeds was more pronounced. This is evidenced by a small study in 2014, which was reported in the journal Clinical and Translational Allergy. But it was conducted on a small sample of only 14 animals. It turned out that hypoallergenic cats secrete and distribute less of the Fel d 1 allergen compared to the rest.

Nevertheless, Dr. Koch advises against relying entirely on this data because of the complexity of allergies caused by animals. Despite the fact that breeders often promote their breeds as hypoallergenic, there is not a single scientific study that confirms the complete safety of any of them. This also applies to bald breeds, which are considered the safest. Since allergens can come from saliva, blood, and glands, the coat is not a decisive factor in the development of the body's reaction. "Allergies are very complex, and allergen triggers and predisposing factors can vary greatly from person to person," Koch summarized.

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