Guinea pigs have dander, but it’s not nearly as much as other pets such as cats and dogs. This makes guinea pigs a great pet for those who suffer from dander-related allergies. If you have an allergic reaction to guinea pigs, you may be allergic to their saliva or urine.
Even though guinea pigs make great pets for people who don’t want to commit to larger pets (such as cats or dogs), there are quite a few things to consider before committing to a guinea pig.
Before purchasing any kind of pet, one of the first things you should consider is allergies. You must consider this when owning a pet because if you are not careful, the effects can be life-threatening.
What You'll Learn
Why is Dander Dangerous?
People that are allergic to pets are typically allergic to their hair or, more commonly, their dander.
Dander is a microscopic shedding of skin that can occasionally attach to dried skin or hair. Its lightweight and airborne qualities make it an irritant of the lungs, inflaming the respiratory system and causing reactions such as wheezing, coughing, sneezing, and at its most severe, swelling in the throat and lungs.
When someone is allergic to dander, it becomes less of an irritant or discomfort and more of a real, life-threatening problem.
Dander, when inhaled, becomes an impurity in your lungs that your body is aware of. Some people have bodies that don’t have a problem dealing with this specific impurity, while others have respiratory systems that don’t know how to manage these impurities in the air.
When pets spend a long time in an area, dander becomes attached to objects like upholstery in a car, furniture in a house, or carpet. In other words, without proper precautions, your entire house can turn into a dome of dangerous allergens to people who are affected by them.
What Makes People Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
However, guinea pigs do not produce a lot of dander. At least not enough to cause an allergic reaction. Many people are still allergic to guinea pigs, though. Understanding what the allergy is caused by helps us understand the allergy and the guinea pigs better.
It also makes it so those who are allergic don’t have to completely write off their cute and cuddly friends for good. There are some gray areas that can be worked around.
People are not typically allergic to the fur of a guinea pig, but they are allergic to their urine and saliva.
The confusion comes from the guinea pigs getting dried urine and saliva on their fur. On contact, humans can have an allergic reaction in the form of irritated skin.
The bodies of those who are allergic react to a protein in the excretions of the guinea pigs.
However, it’s not just the saliva and urine that humans can be allergic to. The possibilities of allergic reactions are nearly endless if you aren’t careful with your piggy. People can react to their hay or wood shavings or anything else they touch, salivate, urinate, or excrete on.
What To Do If You Have An Allergy to Guinea Pigs:
You will probably have allergic reactions that manifest in one of the following ways:
- Runny nose
- Itchy or irritated eyes
- Skin rashes
- Tightness of the throat
- Shortness of breath
Unfortunately, there aren’t many “at home” methods to test if you are allergic to guinea pigs apart from just holding one that a friend or neighbor owns to test and see.
The best way to know if you are allergic to guinea pigs (apart from holding one) is to see an allergist. They will perform a controlled test to see what you are allergic to.
If you are allergic to your guinea pig, all is not lost. You do not have to give up your relationship with your piggie. There are ways to reduce the reactions without having to get rid of them.
You can still treat your piggy with tender love and care without kicking the whole pet-owning thing to the curb.
Keep The Cage Clean
The first step is to keep things clean. Guinea pigs eat, sleep, urinate, play, and live in the same place. For a human, that would be a terrible living situation.
To better the cleanliness of your pig, keeping things clean is crucial. Regularly clean out the cage of your pig. The shavings or hay will quickly get dirty and full of allergens if not kept clean.
If you are allergic and you have to do the cleaning, take precautions before cleaning the cage. Wear gloves when handling the living spaces of the guinea pig. It’s also a good idea to wear a mask to avoid respiratory irritation while the contents of the cage are moving around and shuffling during cleaning.
Keep The Guinea Pig Clean
Additionally, you can make sure your piggy is clean. Avoid using soap that could be harmful or too strong for the skin and fur of your pig. Use diluted or sensitive skin soap to wash the fur of your guinea pig.
Again, use gloves while handling and washing your pig. These particles will be removed and stick on you if you are not using gloves.
Some find it best to use disposable gloves because the repeated use of rubber gloves that have previously handled guinea pigs will be a danger to handle upon reuse.
Use Protective Gear
You can also avoid allergic reactions by handling your piggie with care. You can choose to use gloves while holding and petting your pig. Gloves will keep the harmful excretions from irritating your skin.
Just like germs, if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth during guinea pig playtime, your allergies will manifest heavily because the dried particles will enter the facial cavities, causing actual irritation.
Be Aware of Roaming
Many don’t think about where their guinea pig roams, but where the pig goes, so do the dried excretions that irritate your body.
So be aware of where your piggy is going and what it is touching. Best practices include making a space specific to out-of-cage time for your pig. This will make it easier to clean up after your pig and make accidental exposure less likely.
Your guinea pig should not roam in places where you normally are, such as your favorite couch or bed.
As a general principle, when you’re allergic to your guinea pig, you want to reduce the number of unplanned interactions and take necessary precautions during your planned interactions.
Remember that you can still have fun and enjoy your piggy even though you might be allergic to it. All is not lost with a bit of extra effort and planning.