How Ordinary Folks Deal with Pet Allergies

By PetMD Editorial on May 7, 2009

The Solution May Be Easier Than You Think

When Lynne and Mike Petersons’ two youngsters started begging them for a pet more than a few times a day, it was time to think about it seriously. The dilemma: Mike suffers from allergies to cats and dogs.

"The decision to get a pet didn’t come easily," said Lynne. "We knew things could get difficult with the allergies. But having grown up with pets, I honestly believe they teach you how to be a better person -- not to mention it teaches children the value of caring for another creature."

Mike was in agreement, but he looked into his options before getting a pet. "I decided to keep our bedroom pet-free, to help reduce any allergy attacks. Of course, the usual meds and sprays were going to be more a part of my life from now on in, but it’s worth it to keep your kids happy."

As the Petersons pointed out, the idea of having a designated pet-free room gives a person with allergies a safe haven to retreat to if the allergies get bad. Just make sure the door is kept shut and that the pet isn't allowed inside under any circumstance.

"We also invested in HEPA air filters for all the rooms," explained Mike. "This kept the allergens in the air to a minimum. Luckily we don’t have cloth curtains, so we didn’t have to worry about pet hair and dander and allergens getting trapped in them. But those were the easy parts." The hardest part? Deciding on whether to get a dog or a cat.

"We were torn," said Lynne. "I’d grown up with cats and my daughter wanted a cat, but our son wanted a dog."

"That kid’s wiley," Mike added. "He tried to get both a dog and a cat, but we weren’t having it!"

Laughs aside, the Petersons knew they had to pick the right pet -- a pet that would set Mike’s allergies off as little as possible. "We read up and found cats are often higher in allergens than dogs, even the so-called hairless breeds. So we decided to go for a dog. Apparently the longer, constantly growing haired dogs are the best for people with allergies."

Still, they knew it would be a gamble -- often it depends on the person and the animal. "We had narrowed it down to between a Bichon Frisé and a Poodle, when Lynne suggested we all go down and see what we could find at the local pound."

"I thought it was important to rescue an animal," Lynne said. "Luckily we found a Bichon Frisé mix." Lynne also emphasized the importance of having the pet neutered, as this also helps reduce the allergens.

So how have they faired with the dog? "With the kids put on weekly bathing and grooming duties that helps to reduce the allergens further, medications and our other environmental efforts, things are going great," Mike said. "My allergies are kept to a minimum, and everyone is in love with our newest family member. I can’t imagine ever being without a pet."

The Petersons' story is uplifting for anyone who suffers allergies and wants (or has) a pet. In this modern world, there should be no reason why you should have to live without the wonderful love of a four-legged friend -- even if it is furry.

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