There's no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat. However, certain breeds might be less likely to trigger an allergic response in sensitive people. Before acquiring a pet, check with an allergist to ascertain exactly what substances set you off. If dogs and cats cause relatively mild symptoms, it's possible your doctor can prescribe medication to help you cope with your new friend.
Certain breeds of dogs produce less dander. Hair length isn't really a factor, but hair texture makes a difference. Many of the breeds on the American Kennel Club's list of potentially hypoallergenic dogs boast curly, dense coats. This includes the poodle -- available in toy, miniature and standard sizes, the Irish water spaniel, the Bedlington terrier, the Portuguese water dog, the Kerry blue terrier and the bichon frise.
If dog hair makes you sneeze, perhaps a hairless canine is your best bet. The sweet little Chinese crested comes in two varieties: with and without hair. The version with hair, called the powder puff, also is touted as hypoallergenic. The Xoloitzcuintli, often referred to as the Mexican hairless, comes in miniature and standard sizes.
Other Dog Breeds
The AKC also lists a few breeds with other hair types that allergic people might be able to tolerate. The tiny Maltese has soft, silky hair, but it can be high maintenance when kept in a longer coat. The soft-coated wheaten terrier is named for its wavy hair. The wire-haired schnauzer also makes the list. If this breed doesn't trigger your allergies, you can choose from the miniature, standard or giant version.
It's not the dander that causes reactions in feline allergy sufferers, but a protein in the cat's saliva, skin and urine. Since cats are such consummate self-groomers, there's a lot of kitty saliva on the average feline. Theoretically, an unkempt cat might not trigger allergies, but that cat probably has other issues. Males tend to produce more of these proteins in their saliva than females, while darker cats also have higher levels. If you don't want to go the purebred cat route, see if you can tolerate a light-colored female. Warning: Kittens secrete less of the protein than adult cats, so you could react as the cat grows up. For best results, select a mature feline.
Two cousins of the Siamese -- the Balinese and the Javanese -- score high on the list of those less likely to trigger allergies. The former has less of the protein causing the reaction in the saliva, while the latter has no undercoat. The sphynx cat lacks hair, but does require regular bathing. The Siberian, also known as the Taiga, hails from one of the world's coldest places. His hair is extremely dense, which might contribute to his allergy-free reputation. The Cornish rex and Devon rex, with curly or short coats, are other possible candidates for the allergy-prone cat lover.
Spend time with a member of your chosen breed to ensure it doesn't cause a reaction. Once your dog or cat becomes a member of the household, keep it out of your bedroom. Purchase a high-quality vacuum cleaner recommended for pet hair and use it daily in areas your pet frequents. You also might want to install an electronic air cleaner designed to filter pet dander. Bathe your dog or cat regularly -- or have a groomer do it.