What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?

O. K. so I have read the reports and heard the testimonials and now here is the real poop.(not literally) As a child who was allergic to animals and now as a veterinarian who is still allergic to some animals, I believe I may have the right mix of medical information as well as personal experience and down to earth logic that might shed some light on this topic of hot debate. 

So first, what is dander? One medical dictionary labeled dander as "small flakes of the scalp" while my veterinary dictionary says it is "small scales from the hair or feathers of animals, which may be a cause of allergy in sensitive persons". Another very old dictionary equated dander to dandruff in people. So now that we are all clear on that let's decide what we are really talking about. Aren't we really talking about the stuff that makes us itch or wheezy or creates other unwanted reactions from our immune system? So is it really the hair or feathers or dandruff flakes that are the culprit, or is it the microscopic protein that is produced in the skin glands(sebaceous) as part of the "oils" of the skin that is catching a free ride on the hair, feathers, or flake? I suggest that when we refer to "dander" we really refer to that natural substance that we ALL have in varying quantities and types. Protein. Skin cells live and die constantly just like most of the other cells in the body.When those cells die, where do you think they go? They fall to the ground or float into the air or get left in our beds or clothes. Those cells take those proteins with them wherever they go. Dogs have it. Cats have it. People have it. I bet even cockroaches have it. But those proteins/allergens are all as different as we are. Every single one. We all have skin. We all have glands. The glands all produce stuff. Our bodies don't always like someone else's stuff. Sometimes our bodies dislike someone else's stuff so much that it reacts. Allergy. So there you have it..................the what. 

When I was a young lad, contact with certain animals could make it very difficult for me to breathe. Others caused no reaction at all. There weren't any breed consistencies that I noted nor can remember and it still holds true today. When I examine Shar Pei's I often itch and break out with hives and redness. My clients get a kick out of it. But not all Shar Pei's do this to me. Some cats do and some don't. There are certain animals that, in me, still seem to bring on respiratory issues. And many don't. My mom can't even stay in a house that has cats for pets. My big hearted (and a little wacko) daughter is allergic to the nine cats she rescued from the streets of New York. My dad has no known allergies. So you see, we all react differently to stuff. There you have it ............................the why. 

If we use the term hypoallergenic to depict those animals that have little shedding or no fur then we are creating a misnomer. There may be some animals that shed less than others or some who's skin glands are less in number or in oil production than others but remember, we all have stuff (proteins) and can react differently to someone else's stuff. Some say that the term "hypoallergenic" is used by some breeders for self-benefit. As far as I know, there is no scientific evidence that supports that some dogs are hypoallergenic. As I said---we all have skin, we all have glands, and our glands all produce stuff. All hair does is to give those oils or stuff a vehicle to get around. Hair gets on furniture and floors and on clothes. But so does stuff. If a dog or cat is sleeping on your couch isn't he(or she) leaving dead skin cells and oils there? If you hug and kiss that Mexican Hairless, aren't you getting stuff on your clothes? Yep! So don't equate low shedding with no dander. It is not true. So there you have it..........................the where. 

So here is what is important when deciding on a family pet. Figure out what you really want. Your dreams are important. Does it have to be a specific breed or size or shape or color? Does it need to be a purebred(another topic for discussion) or is attitude or potential life span your primary concern? Does it need to run fast or to be a good protector or to nip at reporters? When you decide what you want, go and see how your stuff reacts with it's stuff. If it's a match, you just made the world a happier place. There you have it........................the answer to the economic crisis.