Some people are unable to witness the wonders of having a pet due to allergies. Red eyes, itchiness, and constant sneezing can truly ruin anyone’s day. Because of this, many people avoid having an animal in their home.
There is a common belief that ferrets on the other hand, make excellent pets for people who suffer from allergies. Is this true? Keep reading to learn if ferrets are hypoallergenic, and if so, how you can properly manage these allergies.
Are Ferrets Hypoallergenic?
Although cases are extremely rare and clinical trials have not been conducted, some people have reported allergic reactions towards ferrets.
Dander is the main allergen produced by a ferret, which is the scientific term for dead skin particles. Ferrets usually groom or clean themselves by licking their fur and certain parts of the body.
Their saliva contains a particular protein that causes an allergic reaction, but hasn’t been properly identified. Thus, when dander is released into the air when they shed, you can inhale it or, it can come in direct contact with your skin.
Some people may not be allergic to a ferret’s fur, but to other bodily fluids. This is due to the fact that your ferret’s urine, feces, and sweat may contain greater amounts of the protein, which may be enough to cause an allergic reaction. It ultimately depends on your body’s susceptibility to the specific protein.
However, you should know that allergies to ferrets can occur, but they are scarce. Some immunologists attribute this to their shedding pattern. Ferrets have two types of fur: an undercoat and a guard hair. A ferret’s undercoat is typically white and designed to retain heat during cold temperatures, while the guard hair fends off water and dirt.
Since the guard hair does not shed easily, it is less likely to produce allergic reactions. Additionally, ferrets shed fur less frequently than cats or dogs.
Generally, cats and dogs shed fur and dander multiple times a month, which increases the probabilities of causing an allergic reaction. But, ferrets only shed twice a year, making a ferret allergy more manageable.
Ferrets also produce less saliva than cats or dogs. Remember that the dander is allergenic because of the protein present in their saliva. Since less saliva is transferred to their fur when they groom themselves, it has low chances of containing enough allergenic protein to produce an allergic reaction.
Some common allergy symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, itchiness, difficulty breathing, red eyes, and pressure around the face and head. Most symptoms are mild and temporary, but some people can suffer anaphylactic reactions, which are life-threatening and lethal in certain occasions.
Do Ferrets Affect Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes swelling in a person’s airways due to exposure to an allergen.
Usually, asthma is diagnosed during childhood or when a person reaches puberty due to hormonal imbalances. If treated properly, it is manageable and reversible in certain occasions.
Additionally, most people who suffer from asthma also have other co-existent allergic conditions, like allergic rhinitis or eczema. Studies have shown that about 60% of the people who are asthmatic, are allergic to pets, because dander is an airborne allergen.
Therefore, a person can suffer from an asthma attack if they are exposed to ferret dander. The severity of the crisis depends on how wildly their body responds to dander inhaled.
For example, I have a friend who is allergic to most airborne compounds. His wife adopted a ferret, and it rarely caused any symptoms. So they decided to adopt another ferret for mutual companionship. However, he was taken to the ER the same night they brought home the new ferret, due to a severe asthma attack.
The doctors suspected that the amount of dander produced by both ferrets was enough for his body to produce an asthma flare-up. Upon returning the ferret back to the store, his symptoms were reduced. Thus, he was able to manage his asthma if there was only one ferret in their home.
Overall, any person who is asthmatic must assess their sensibility against ferrets before approaching a ferret-inclusive environment or adopting one as a pet.
How to Manage Ferret Allergies?
Before anything, you should contact an allergist before acquiring any animal as a pet. He or she can prescribe sensibility tests, like the RAST, and determine if you are allergic to certain animals, like cats, dogs, birds, and ferrets. He can also apply allergy shots, which is a form of treatment that decreases the probabilities of allergy attacks.
You can also visit animal shelters to evaluate if any symptom, like sneezing or itchiness, is produced when you come in contact with a specific animal. It is not advised to go to a pet store because there are many animals present in an enclosed area.
Thus, it is hard to determine if you are allergic to a certain animal since the dander in the air comes from all the animals.
Other safety precautions include washing your hands on a regular basis, keeping your house clean, and buying an air filter. By washing your hands and changing our ferret’s littler box, you reduce exposure to allergens.
Common Pet Allergies
According to statistics, more than 20% of the world population suffers from allergies, and it is one of the leading chronic health conditions around the world. It is said that one out of five people suffers from a type of allergy and unfortunately, pets are a common cause of allergies.
As reported by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, approximately three in ten people are allergic to animals, particularly cats and dogs. Cat allergies are the most common pet allergies due to a protein present in their fur and saliva known as Fel d 1 allergen.
Most people believe that allergies are caused by an animal’s fur, but that’s not entirely true. Technically, the allergic reaction is produced by a substance present embedded in the fur and it can be available in any part of the animal.
Therefore, an animal’s fur, saliva, sweat, shedding, urine, and other bodily fluids can generate an allergic reaction. When it comes in contact with our skin or is inhaled, your body identifies it as dangerous.
For this reason, no animal is truly allergy-free, because any compound or protein produced by them can cause an allergic reaction, whether it is on a regular basis or rare situations.
However, certain physical characteristics, like an animal’s shedding, can decrease the likelihood of producing a chain reaction.
What is a Good Pet for Someone with Allergies?
If you still want to adopt an animal as a pet, there are certain species that are less prone to cause allergies. This is because they shed less fur, and generate less dander. The best options are:
- Reptiles (like the Bearded Dragon)
- Mini Pigs
Anyone who is prone to allergies should be evaluated by an allergist before adding a new pet to the family. Ferrets can be an excellent choice for a pet since ferret allergies are rare. However, they can still occur, so you should take all safety measures to prevent any allergic reaction from occurring.