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Choosing Pets for Kids with Allergies

I love dogs. My partner loves dogs. My kids love dogs. Trouble is, dogs don’t love my kids – at least not when it comes to allergies. So if you’ve set your heart on getting a dog, but you or your family have allergy problems is there anything you can do about it?

Well, you can start by looking at breeds that are supposedly better for allergy sufferers. Wheaten Terriers, Beagles, Portuguese Water Dogs are some of the most popular. Or the new “hybrid” breeds – Labradoodles, Spoodles and the like.

The problem is that even then, nothing is guaranteed. We went as far as going to a rescue centre, carefully choosing the right kind of dog after several visits, starting to sign on the dotted line, when suddenly our elder daughter began reacting. She became itchy, her face swelled up – and there were of course buckets of tears when we realised that we couldn’t take the dog after all.

The thing is, it’s not just a dog’s coat that’s the problem. It’s also the saliva. So you have to worry about a dog licking you as well as stroking it. No displays of affection, in other words. Which rather negates a lot of the point of getting a dog in the first place.

So is all lost when it comes to dogs? Not necessarily. We had both our girls tested for allergies and both were confirmed as allergic to dogs. But these things can change over time. People can both develop and lose allergies over time, seemingly for no rhyme or reason. Ditto asthma and eczema - they’re all related.

I had asthma as a kid, but none now. I never had eczema as a child, but in my late twenties and thirties I got it quite badly. Now, in my early forties, I no longer suffer from it. My elder daughter used to have a latex allergy. Not now. She now swells up if she eats chicken. She never used to. My partner had bad hay fever all her life – until a couple of years ago. And so on.

It can be the same with pet allergies. If you’re not sure, get you or your family tested. Then try testing again in a few years time. There are also things you can do to lessen the impact of allergies, such as washing the dog frequently. But that’s only worthwhile if the dog is already there – it’s not a great idea to introduce a new dog to an allergic household on that basis. Besides, the dog is unlikely to be too keen on being bathed. And however often you clean or groom it, there’s no such thing as an allergen free dog.

Incidentally, both our kids came out in the tests as allergic to cats. This we already knew about, and was less of an issue, as we’d all prefer to get a dog. Cat allergies tend to be more common, and often more severe as well. And also, many experts say, less likely to go away over time. So bad luck if cats are your bag – it’s not a good idea to introduce a cat to a home with allergic kids.

While we’re hoping our kids’ dog allergies will improve over time, we still wanted to get a pet. But practically all pets can set off allergies – rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, all of them. So always expose all members of your household to them before taking them home, just in case. Snakes and lizards are ok – but plenty of people aren’t too happy with the concept of a snake or lizard in the house.

Then there are goldfish. Goldfish you’re pretty safe with. But goldfish you’ll probably get pretty bored with too. They’re not easy to take for walks for one thing.

In the end, we settled on hamsters. The kids had already handled the school hamster without any problems, so we knew we were on safe ground. So now we’re the proud owners of three girl hamsters. (I do, do hope they are all females – three is more than enough.)

One day we may be able to get a dog. But right now, we’re happy, the kids are happy, and their allergies aren’t being set off all the time by their pets. And that’s the main thing.

© Peter Wise

As well as supporting one partner, two kids and three hamsters, Peter Wise is a freelance copywriter, website copywriter and SEO copywriter based in London, UK. He also writes direct mail, brochures, newsletter articles and press releases. If you’re looking for a freelance copywriter, please call +44 (0) 7767 687524 or visit http://ideaswise.com/

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