Are you a sufferer of seasonal or pet allergies? You’re not alone, as there are millions of people worldwide who suffer from allergies daily. They can be frustrating and they often interfere with everyday life. Perhaps you’re an avid animal lover and looking to add a Guinea Pig to your home and are worried that they might cause your allergies to flare up.
Many people find out as children that they have pet allergies and even adults can develop allergies. Before bringing any pet home, be sure to find out if you’re allergic or if someone in your household is. This is simple enough to test through an allergist or by simply spending time with your chosen companion before you commit to buying one. If you, or someone you live with, is allergic, you’ll need to decide if it’s a manageable allergy or not.
During your research on your new possible piggy, you’ve probably run into the term “hypoallergenic.” This can be a confusing term and is often used incorrectly and sometimes intentionally to sell a product. We’ll discuss what the term means and how it applies to Guinea Pigs along with a few other common questions about pet allergies.
What does “hypoallergenic” really mean?
The term “hypoallergenic” gets tossed around with everything from laundry detergent to specialty breeds of pets that won’t cause allergies. But what does the word truly mean? To break it down simply, “hypo” means less than or under. When used with “allergenic” the term simply means it is less likely to cause allergens.
This does not mean that a product or pet will completely prevent allergies, a common misconception that is also used to trick consumers. If something is advertised as hypoallergenic, then it has been tested to be less likely to cause allergic reactions, but still can cause a reaction. It is an important distinction though and can be very helpful in deciding if a product or pet is right for you.
It can be even more confusing when a pet is branded as hypoallergenic. There is simply no animal that does not produce allergens, but it is how they spread them that matters. Everyone has heard “I’m allergic to cat hair” but in truth, they’re allergic to the allergens created with the urine, saliva, and skin glands of that animal. These allergens are then transferred from the animal’s urine, saliva, or skin glands via their dander and fur.
So if you have a heavy shedding pet, more allergens will be deposited around your home and on you. If you have a light shedder, or hairless pet, the allergens will still be produced but spread less. This is why some pets are considered hypoallergenic because they are less likely to cause allergies, such as Poodles and Sphinx cats.
Are Guinea Pigs hypoallergenic?
Before you choose your new Guinea Pig companion, be aware that no piggy breed is hypoallergenic. This includes Skinny Pigs, a mostly hairless breed of piggy. However, while it’s true that Skinny pigs are not hypoallergenic, it is true that they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction due to having little fur to transmit allergens. Some breeds of piggies, such as the Peruvian, are going to cause more allergies due to their long, glorious coats, which trap the allergens and deposit them around their enclosures and your home.
Just like cats or dogs shed, Guinea Pigs shed fur and dander as well. Even though much smaller, Guinea Pigs produce similar proteins that create allergens in their urine, saliva, and skin glands. Weekly grooming and cleaning of your piggy can reduce the number of allergens floating around your home and allow you both to enjoy living together.
Is it your Guinea Pig or Hay that’s making you sneeze?
Before you make the heart-wrenching decision to rehome your Guinea Pig or give up on having one as a pet, we suggest finding out if it is your piggie’s Timothy hay that is causing a reaction. Timothy hay is the most important part of a piggie’s diet and will need to be provided with it daily, but most people are unaware that it is a source of common allergens!
If you find that Timothy hay, or Timothy grass as it’s called in the wild, is the reason for your sniffles, there are alternative options. Orchardgrass is a great option for those who suffer from Timothy hay allergies as it produces fewer allergens and is still a nutrient-rich option for your piggy. If you find that any form of grass or hay is still causing allergies, it may not be the best decision for you to have a piggy, as hay is over 80% of their diet.
Are Guinea Pigs good pets for people with allergies?
If your heart is set on a piggy companion, there are a few options to living with one if you find you’re allergic to the little guys. First, choose a Skinny or short-haired piggy to lower the number of allergens produced and spread. Second, you’ll want to clean out their enclosures weekly, to help clean up the allergens present in the bedding.
Having HEPA air cleaners will reduce the number of air pollutants around your home. Weekly dusting and cleaning of your home can also reduce allergens present and keep your house looking sharp! It is possible to live with pet allergies, as long as they’re not too debilitating and you’re prepared to deal with them. Following the steps we’ve offered, doing research, and speaking with your vet can help you best prepare for a pet in your home.
Nevertheless, I do generally advise that if you find out that you’re allergic to guinea pigs before you buy one, you get a different type of pet. Guinea pigs have remarkably long lifespans for a rodent. They can live for up to 8 years so you have to be prepared to take care of them for that long. For some people, this can be very difficult if they’re allergic to them.
While some pets may be more hypoallergenic than others, there is no pet or animal that doesn’t produce allergens, this includes guinea pigs. Short-haired or hairless breeds are less likely to cause allergic reactions, but they will still produce the proteins that create allergies. Despite their smaller size and living in their separate enclosures, Guinea Pigs can still cause allergies and are not hypoallergenic.
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