Searching for the Perfect Sneeze-Proof Pooch?
October 3rd, 2013
People with pet allergies react to proteins in an animal’s saliva, dander, and urine. In dogs, the protein is called Can 1; in cats, it is called Fel d 1. Pets that are supposed to be hypoallergenic are usually advertised to shed less fur or dander, which theoretically would spread less of these proteins around.
The American Kennel Club has identified 11 breeds it considers to be hypoallergenic, including poodles, Portuguese water dogs, and schnauzers. But according to at least one study published in a leading allergy journal, there is no detectable difference between allergens in homes of hypoallergenic dog owners and allergens in homes of non-hypoallergenic dog owners. Said the study:
Clinicians should advise patients that they cannot rely on breeds deemed to be “hypoallergenic” to in fact disperse less allergen in their environment.
Still, you can find advertisements for dogs like the one below which claims its soft-coated Wheaten terriers are “Non Shed/Hypo Allergenic.”
For cats, there is even a company that supposedly breeds selectively to cut down on the saliva proteins. One company, Lifestyle Pets, boasts that its trademarked Allerca cats are “scientifically proven” to be hypoallergenic. The cats received a lot of attention when they were introduced in 2006, netting the CEO Simon Brodie interviews on various national television shows. Time Magazine even named Allerca cats one of the Best Inventions of 2006.
But this year, an investigation on ABC’s Nightline (Part 1, Part 2) revealed suspicious evidence concerning Brodie and Lifestyle Pets. It found that Brodie had allegedly started a number of shady businesses in the U.S., and then moved to the U.K. under a different name to continue operating Lifestyle Pets.
When the investigators tried to purchase one of the Allerca cats, they found themselves swindled in two ways. For one thing, the cat they purchased for around $7,000 turned out to be a cat that Brodie bought from a breeder the previous day for about $260. For another, when the team had the cat tested for allergens in a laboratory, the lab found that the cat’s allergen levels were no different from that of a shelter cat.
Lifestyle Pets also now sells an Ashera GD, which is basically a miniature leopard, and a Jabari GD dog, which is basically a quizzical brown mop/feather duster hybrid.
If you suffer from pet allergies, there may be some ways to alleviate your symptoms, but for now scientists agree that spending a lot of money for a certain “hypoallergenic” breed isn’t one of them.