If playing with a friend’s adorable puppy in the park or letting your parents’ cat curl up on your lap leaves you red-eyed and sneezing, you’re far from alone. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, up to 3 in 10 people with allergies have those sensitivities triggered by dogs and cats. However, that doesn’t mean a life spent looking longingly in pet store windows and dreaming about having an animal friend to call your own is a foregone conclusion. With the help of top doctors and vets, we’ve rounded up the best pets for allergy sufferers, giving you the love and companionship you’ve been dreaming of—hold the tissues.
Believe it or not, fluffy Shih Tzus could be a great choice for you, even if most other dogs have you running for the allergy medicine.
“These dogs are low allergen,” explains small animal and exotic veterinarian Sara Ochoa, DVM, veterinary consultant for Doglab.com. She recommends Shih Tzus for allergy sufferers because of their hair-like coat that sheds very little.
With sweet curly coats and floppy ears, dogs don’t get much cuter than the Welsh Terrier. And luckily for those with allergies, they’re a great choice if you’re looking to avoid a flare-up.
“There aren’t many breeds that produce fewer allergy symptoms than the Welsh Terrier,” says Kristin Sandberg, pet lifestyle expert for Rover.com. To further reduce your risk of symptoms, Sandberg also recommends vacuuming frequently, washing your dog often, and keeping your pup out of the bed.
Shutterstock/Lim Tiaw Leong
Poodles’ curly hair may look like it could easily trigger an allergy attack, but Ochoa says that’s not the case.
“These are the number one dog people who have allergies should consider,” says Ochoa, noting that poodles come in sizes from tiny to large and don’t shed, limiting their risk of triggering allergies in those affected.
It wasn’t just Bo’s cute face that made him the perfect addition to the Obama household—the Portuguese Water Dog was allegedly chosen because he was unlikely to trigger Malia Obama’s allergies.
They “have hair, not fur, and no undercoat … so allergy burden is less,” explains otolaryngologist Giri Venkatraman, MD, founder of personalized healthcare service GiriMD.
Hairless Sphinxes are an obvious choice for allergy sufferers, but they aren’t the only cats many people with allergies can safely have at home. According to Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, “Balinese are known to produce less of the allergen Fel d 1,” the primary allergen associated with cats.
With their big ears and wide eyes, Rex cats might just be the closest thing you can get to having your own Baby Yoda at home. Parikh suggests Devon and Cornish Rex cats for individuals with allergies because they “give off less dander and thus less allergen.”
Think you can’t have a big, fluffy cat because of your allergies? Think again!
“It may be surprising that the Siberian breed is gentle on allergies, considering the long beautiful coat they’re sporting. However, Siberians can sometimes produce less Fel d 1 than other breeds, which is the protein that people negatively react to,” says Sandberg, who also notes that they’re typically playful and affectionate, making them a great addition to most households.
Looking for a low-maintenance pet that’s almost guaranteed not to trigger your allergies? You can’t do much better than fish.
“Fish make wonderful pets for people with allergies,” says veterinarian Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today. Luckily, you don’t need a huge amount of space to house them either. Coates says that single male Betta fish can get by just fine in a small and simple tank, while those who want a centerpiece can splurge on “elaborate and large set-ups for tropical fresh or saltwater fish,” she explains.
If you want to avoid ever having to tell your kids their pet “went to a farm,” consider getting them a tortoise.
“Reptiles are a good hypoallergenic pet option,” says Coates, who notes that herbivorous tortoises are a particularly good fit for anyone who enjoys reptiles but doesn’t love the idea of feeding their pet insects or small mammals.
Pets don’t get much cooler than iguanas—and feeding them is easy, even for the most squeamish pet owners.
“Lizards like green iguanas [and] desert iguanas are herbivores” that are also overwhelmingly allergy-friendly, says Coates.
A feathered friend might just be the perfect fit for you if allergies are a concern in your home.
“Birds are usually less allergenic than are animals with fur,” explains Coates, who says that canaries in particular tend to be well-tolerated by allergy sufferers.
In a pinch, get a finch! Coates recommends these low-allergen birds for anyone who can’t so much as look at a dog or cat without sniffling. Just be forewarned before you pick up your new pet—finches are social birds, so they typically do better in pairs.
Sweet, musical, and talkative, parakeets are great pets—and they’re especially wonderful for anyone who doesn’t want their animal companion to leave them red-eyed and sniffling.
“Parakeets are ideal since they produce less dander due to their small size in comparison to larger birds,” says Coates.