San Jose Mercury News: Despite allergies, some can still live with animals

Carla Thornton, Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter

Adoptable Pets

POSTED:   01/13/2016 04:34:56 PM PST0 COMMENTS| UPDATED:   5 DAYS AGO

Having a pet can be a challenge for allergy sufferers. Some people take antihistamines or allergy shots so they can enjoy a four-legged companion. Many others look for a so-called "hypoallergenic" pet, one that is not supposed to trigger allergic reactions. The shorter the hair or the less it sheds, the more hypoallergenic an animal is supposed to be. But are these pets really allergy-proof?

Pet hair itself does not cause allergies. Allergic reactions to animals come from a protein found in their saliva and skin cells that forms a dander that attaches to hair. When hair sheds into the air, it's the dander that makes us sneeze.

Cats are twice as likely as dogs to aggravate allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, because their protein, called "Fel d 1," is lighter and stays in the air longer.

There is some logic to the hypoallergenic argument. A dog that sheds less hair might distribute less dander. But that doesn't mean you won't be allergic to a poodle, a Chinese crested or another dog that doesn't shed; it apparently depends on the individual animal, too. For instance, I'm a runny-nosed mess around my sister-in-law's cat, Benny. But my neighbor's cat, Mo, an identical-looking tuxedo? I have no problem with him.

If you have a trigger-happy immune system that misfires around animals, adding a pet to your household is a challenge but doable. Your best course of action is to spend a little time with your intended dog or cat to see if you're a good match. If you experience symptoms, you can still live comfortably with a pet that you're allergic to if you vacuum often, keep pets out of your bed and use a HEPA filter. Clean, dander-free air can go a long way toward helping you stay allergy free.

Pet of the Week: Under Charlee's bold exterior is a sweet love muffin! She doesn't really care that she weighs more than your typical lap dog. She will attempt to get in your lap any way and give you lots of kisses. She would be great in a home with young children because she has such a gentle nature.

Dog Alley: There are 15 dogs available for adoption. Karma is a 6-year-old red pit bull mix. She is a bouncy energetic girl. Biggie is an 8-year-old tan-and-white Chihuahua mix. He is a great walker. All dogs adopted from FAAS receive free dog training through the SASHA Fund.

Cat Lair: There are 18 cats available for adoption. We have several great senior cats available for adoption in our Silver Whiskers program. The adoption fee is waived for these great cats, and they have a senior vet check, including blood work before adoption. Jack and Maude are two of the sensational senior cats available.

Carla Thornton is a develop- ment and communications coordinator for Friends of the Alameda Animal Shel- ter. Visit the shelter at 1590 Fortmann Way at Grand Street, call 510-337-8565 or visit www." alamedaani malshelter.org to view the animals.