No Bad Hair Days: Fur-Free Friends for the Allergy-Prone
Jul 02, 2012 07:18AM
● By Rebecca Ryan
Is someone in a pet lover’s household subject to allergies? Some find hairless breeds easier to live with. Before adopting a hairless cat or dog, visit a rescue group or shelter to make sure there’s no sneezy reaction with a potential companion. Also, remember that hairless breeds still need to be groomed, as well as protected from insects, sunburn and frostbite.
Allergy-prone cat lovers long for a hypoallergenic breed; unfortunately, none exists, because the allergy is not due to cat fur, but either to saliva left on the fur after cats groom themselves or to dander (dead skin cells). Still, a hairless breed like a sphynx or the nearly hairless Cornish or Devon rex, can make a helpful difference in living with a cat.
As a kitten, a sphynx appears to have more skin than muscle, but will grow into a strong, athletic adult that is full of mischie, while still looking somewhat like a bat. Touching her skin brings to mind a chamois cloth or the skin of a warm peach.
This high-energy breed persists in demanding attention and loves to curl up on a comfy lap. If none is available, she’ll nap with another cat, or even the dog. At night, a sphynx will serve as a live hot water bottle for human feet, snuggling under the covers and radiating heat.
Both the Cornish rex and Devon rex are originally from England, the result of a mutated litter. The Cornish version has large ears and high cheekbones, plus a bit of curly fur close to the skin—a unique covering that has been compared to cut velvet. Fur on the Devon variation can range from a thin, suede-like texture to a looser mop of curls.
Rex are likewise high-energy and love to climb. “A quiet rex is a cat you should check on, because they’re moochers, too,” says Gwen Welch, who lives with her two Cornish pals, Senna and Tang, in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
All three breeds need only a gentle wipe down with a damp cloth to keep dander and saliva to a minimum. Regular nail trims and ear checks complete the light grooming routine. These are fun-loving, companionable cats.
Hairless dogs bring their own challenges. Before adopting a hairless breed, make sure the family has the temperament, commitment and energy to train and keep up with a very active pet.
Chinese crested dogs are delicate in appearance, yet harbor a cat’s ability to climb, a terrier’s urge to dig and a yodeler’s voice. This breed provides continual entertainment.
Such charms help with Hagen’s job as a certified therapy dog, says Linda McGrath-Cruz, a paralegal in Miami, Florida. “He’s small and unusual-looking, with a lovable nature, which makes him perfect for therapy visits.” Cresteds only have hair on their heads, tail and around the ankles. “They’re goofy dogs personality-wise, too, funny and very intelligent,” she says with a smile.
McGrath-Cruz notes that cresteds require extra care because they are easily sunburned, are affected by cold temperatures more than most other pooches and are extra-vulnerable to insect bites. She explains, “Unlike most dogs, cresteds have sweat glands, so they don’t pant to adjust their body temperature. Weekly baths keep them clean and fresh.”
The skin of a crested is so delicate that it can tear. All-natural moisturizers can keep skin supple, but too much of a good thing may lead to a form of acne. Prevent sunburn with a nontoxic sunscreen or a T-shirt. Sweaters help keep these little ones warm in air conditioning or cooler outdoor conditions.
American hairless terriers like Scooby McGurk have more pep than a litter of retrievers. McGurk takes several hour-long walks each day, in addition to scheduled playtimes with his pack. He also gets mental exercise as a trained mold detection dog, ferreting out suspected damage under floors and in walls.
At work, Scooby wears a hazardous materials suit for his protection, explains his handler, Greg Meilen. “We live in Canada, so his outdoor winter wardrobe includes a snowsuit with ear and tail warmers and boots to protect him from frostbite. In the summer, he wears shirts to block UV [ultraviolet] rays and prevent sunburn.”
“People that are allergic to other dogs find hairless terriers easier to live with,” observes Emily McKay, an American hairless terrier breeder. “Just shower and towel them dry to remove dirt and dander.”
The Xoloitzcuintle (SHOW-low-eats-QUEENT-lee), or Xolo (SHOW-lo), is a Mexican hairless, high-energy, independent thinking dog. A Xolo’s view of training is much like a method actor that queries, “What is my motivation?”
“This extremely intelligent breed will control an owner they can manipulate, but will respond to structure, firmness and especially, kindness,” says Barbara Griffin, president of Xoloitzcuintle Club USA. “Accept and value them for these traits, rather than expect total compliance. A Xolo will not take rough or harsh physical corrections, because they’re sensitive. My dog, Baalche, will show stress and throw up if I’m angry. Quetzal, my husband’s dog, will shut down and just walk away.”
“They exceed in agility and are quick to learn, but are not wired to please,” notes Griffin. “High-value treats and a lot of praise for meeting a challenge are key. It has to be fun.”
Hairless breeds are not for everyone, but with patience, energy and understanding, the rewards will be laughs, loyalty and a bond like no other.
Connect with freelance writer Rebecca Ryan at [email protected].