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Can Pets and Allergies Coexist?

Three experts offer their advice.

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A parent, an allergist, and a pet adoption service weigh in on the best way to choose—and live with—a pet when a family member is allergic.

THE ANIMAL ADOPTION SERVICE SAYS…

“Talk to your physician [before you begin your pet search] to know what to avoid. Then contact your local animal shelter and work with them to help find a pet that might be a good fit for your family. The Dumb Friends League recommends bringing in everyone in the household who will come in contact with the animal. If you adopt a pet and it doesn’t end up working out, it’s OK to bring them back to the shelter. Another great option to consider is fostering a pet to see what types of animals might work best for your family.”

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Joan Thielen, Public Relations Manager, Dumb Friends League

THE ALLERGY DOCTOR SAYS…

“Reactions can sometimes be quick and patients will know right away if they’re going to have symptoms around an animal. Other times, it can take weeks to months. There are very few patients with animal allergies who cannot own a pet — we just need to identify the allergen and proceed with the appropriate therapy, whether that’s medication, allergen immunotherapy, or a combination of both. Allergen immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots,” is a process where the patient is injected with allergens and, over time, their allergic response decreases and their symptoms improve. For most patients, their allergic reactions can be eliminated entirely and the effect can be long-lasting.

Some breeds of animals are labeled as “hypoallergenic” due to the fact that they shed less. This may or may not make a difference and patients can still have allergic reactions to hypoallergenic animals.”

Dr. Ryan D. Buckley, Colorado Allergy and Asthma Centers

THE PARENT WHOSE FAMILY HAS ALLERGIES SAYS…

“After two failed attempts at finding the right dog for our family, we didn’t think it was going to be possible. We had been around goldendoodles, but had some reactions to them like itching/burning skin and eyes. It was just luck that we learned more about different generations of doodles and what would work well for our family. We decided we needed to get an “F2b” as we still had some issues around our friends’ dogs that were “F1” and “F1b” [nomenclature that distinguishes hybrid breeds of animals]. We worked with a breeder to find the best fit for us.”

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Elizabeth Bell, Denver mother of two girls and two boys, ages eight to 14

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