When hairless guinea pigs or skinny pigs became widely popular, the demand to take one home was off the charts. Partly because a lot of people believe that they are hypoallergenic. And if you have allergies, you’re probably wondering if a furless piggie might be better for you.
Hairless guinea pigs, also known as skinny pigs, are not hypoallergenic. This is because animal fur is not the source of allergens. All guinea pigs, regardless of hair density, release proteins in their hair, urine, and skin cells that can trigger an allergic reaction.
If you truly want a skinny pig (or even a regular furry guinea pig), then this doesn’t have to be deal breaker. Likewise, if you’re allergic reaction to your piggie, there are ways to manage your condition (as long as it’s not life-threatening).
There are many solutions that can be explored that would allow an allergy sufferer to keep their beloved pets while successfully managing their allergies.
You’d be surprised to know that many people with allergies that aren’t life-threatening are able to live happily with their pets.
Are There Any Hypoallergenic Guinea Pigs?
Let’s start with what “hypoallergenic” means. The word hypoallergenic is used to describe pets and items that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, guinea pigs aren’t hypoallergenic. All piggies release the proteins that can cause allergies, so a hairless guinea pig could trigger an allergic reaction as much as any other.
Keep in mind that no warm-blooded animal is completely hypoallergenic. However, some animals are less likely to cause allergic reactions because of how frequently their skin sheds or their grooming habits.
Hair has Nothing (Very Little) to Do With It
So, guinea pigs aren’t hypoallergenic.
It all comes down to proteins – especially the ones that our immune systems have bad reactions to.
These proteins are often released in the cavy’s bodily fluid, including their sweat, saliva, and urine which could stick to the guinea pig’s hair.
That’s why it’s pretty common to associate guinea pig allergy with their hair or coat.
But the allergic reaction has very little to do with the coat or hair, which tells us that skinny pigs or hairless guinea pigs can still trigger allergic reactions.
The hair of a furry guinea pig is simply contaminated by the a material that all piggies produce. That’s what ends up in the bodily fluid of your little friends. This material is actually the cause of all of our allergy woes.
Let’s take a closer look at…
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Proteins That Trigger Allergies
Your immune system can be sensitive to two proteins that piggies produce: namely Cav P I and Cav P II. Sometimes this sensitivity sparks an allergic reaction when you’re exposed to them.
This sensitivity causes your body’s Immunoglobulins (IgE) to be activated. Immunoglobulins are a class of antibody (immune system protein) associated with allergic reactions.
It functions as a part of the body’s immune system and defends the body against things that shouldn’t be inside it (e.g. allergens). It is normally found in very small amounts in the blood.
The proteins Cav P I and Cav P II are especially potent in guinea pig dander (dead skin cells), urine and saliva.
Understanding the process of how these proteins are transmitted will help you see that getting a hairless guinea pig does not necessarily mean you’ll be allergy-free.
- Saliva: The proteins that cause an allergy can be transmitted from your cavies’ saliva when they groom themselves. When your little friends clean their fur, they usually lick themselves repeatedly.
- Urine: The amount of these proteins is higher in urine than in saliva. Since guinea pigs are caged, they tend to pee where they eat. If the cage is not regularly cleaned, the proteins from the neglected pee can stick to their hair once they stay in the same spot.
- Dander: Dander is dead skin, which piggies shed. It can cause allergic reactions. It is the most common form of for allergic reactions to guinea pigs. Since skinny pigs don’t have fur, there’s a chance that dander will be shed (and spread) more easily. This can lead to more allergic reactions.
The proteins stay attached to your piggie’s hair…waiting for you to swing by, breathe them in, or touch them. (Like that mouth-breathing weirdo that stalked you your junior year of high school.)
Hey! Sometimes It’s Hay!
So it may not be the piggies after all!
Remember what I said about people associating their allergic reactions with guinea pig hair? The same misunderstanding happens with hay.
Hay is dried grass and some hays are dusty. Your furry friends roll in and eat hay and end up peppered with it.
If you’re allergic to grass or dust, you’re going to have major difficulties when handling your piggies, cleaning their bedding, or refreshing their hay supply.
I examined guinea pig allergy data from a manually sourced survey of 296 pet owners. All of the owners were either allergic to their guinea pigs or knew someone personally that had allergic reactions.
- 60.8% of the respondents stated that hay caused their allergic reactions.
- 26% said that they were allergic to just their piggies
- 13.2% of the respondents claimed that they were allergic to both
Apparently, it’s much more common for you to end up allergic to the hay that your piggie eats than to your piggie itself.
So, that’s something all people with allergies need to consider.
An allergy happens when your immune system recognizes a substance (allergen) as harmful.
When allergens enter your body, the immune cells in your body will see them as threats and try to get rid of them. (Think
How would you know if you are allergic to guinea pigs, whether it’s hairless or furred? Simple, check the following symptoms whenever you interact or go near your little friends:
- Runny nose
- Eye irritation
- Hives (itchy skin, red, skin rash)
- Rashes and skin redness
Other conditions that people with allergies have include asthma, eczema, conjunctivitis, and rhinitis.
Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. Mild cases can often be treated with medicines you can buy over the counter or other ways.
However, if you have a severe case, you may need to see your doctor immediately.
If you’re already experiencing shortness of breath, low pulse, dizziness, and airway constrictions, go directly to the emergency room because those are symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylactic shock is a severe life-threatening response to allergens. It requires immediate medical attention.
Is It Common to Be Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
Guinea pig allergies are pretty rare, but they can happen.
Some people who’ve had allergic reactions think that the problem is guinea pigs. But it may not be the animals themselves. The allergens might come from hay or wood shavings that are near them.
People who have a family history of asthma or hypersensitivity are more likely to have allergies to guinea pigs.
How Do You Get Tested for Guinea Pig Allergies?
Like other forms of allergies, laboratory tests for guinea pig allergies can be through an IgE test.
Immunoglobulin E (or IgE) is a type of antibody that is found in the blood when someone has an allergic reaction to an allergen (like pet dander, grass, or saliva). IgE tests measure how much allergen-specific IgE there is in the blood. That way, it’s clear if someone has an allergy to a particular substance.
A total IgE test tells you how many antibodies in your blood are fighting against allergens. A specific IgE test tells you which specific allergen is the problem.
If allergists want to be sure, they order sevearl allergy tests that are each very specific, like if they want to know if you have an allergic reaction to the Cav P I and Cav P II proteins that guinea pigs produce.
In this specific test, the IgE antibodies, made by your immune system when Cav P I and Cav P II proteins are introduced to your body, are measured.
The higher the said antibodies are, the more severe the allergy.
You can simply contact your doctor or set an appointment with a specialist to order this allergy test.
How Do You Manage Guinea Pig Allergies?
It’s possible that you only found out about your guinea pig allergies once you already have your cavy. And before you knew that piggies aren’t hypoallergenic.
If this is the case, you have the option to find a new home for your little friend.
But, if you’re already attached to your cavy, maybe letting go is not an option.
Quite frankly, many pet parents would rather find ways to live with their allergies than to give away their beloved piggies.
The good news is that there are other ways you can undertake to keep your guinea pig and manage your allergies. Here are some steps you can take to manage living with your allergies bearable.
1. Clean your guinea pig cage and beddings regularly.
Allergens can stick to various parts of your cavy’s home. Cleaning it regularly will reduce your risk of touching or inhaling the proteins that trigger the allergy.
Schedule a thorough cleaning of the cage at least once a week and change the soiled beddings frequently.
Regularly clean the room where your piggies live. For example, disinfect the curtains, wash the sheets, and wipe down surfaces to allergens.
Likewise, vacuum the room where the cavies are to get rid of allergens on the floor.
2. Install a H.E.P.A. air purifier and make that the room where your cavy stay has proper ventilation and good airflow.
If you’re interested: Here’s 3 really good HEPA air filters that are affordable.
If you want to eliminate the allergens, try installing an air purifier with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) air filters.
This type of purifier removes allergens and airborne particles in the air.
It can help decrease respiratory problems and allergic reactions.
3. Use gloves and a mask.
The right protective gear can protect you from allergy symptoms. When cleaning your guinea pig’s home or handling your piggies, make sure to use gloves and a mask. Additionally, wear long sleeves to protect your skin from exposure to allergens.
4. Make it a habit to wash your hands and exposed skin before and after holding your guinea pig.
Wash your hands before and after cleaning and holding your guinea pig. This can eliminate allergens contracted from dried urine, saliva, or dander.
Use soap and water, then wash for as long as 20 seconds. Consider showering after you’ve handled your little friends as well.
5. Avoid placing the guinea pig near your face. Also, don’t let them stay on your bed or sofa.
Your neck and face are the most sensitive part to which allergens can come in contact. So avoid placing your cavy near your face.
Also, it goes without saying, but if you are allergic to your furry friends, don’t kiss them or cuddle them close to your face (no matter how squishy and adorable they are).
6. Get some help.
If someone in your house is non-allergic to the cavy, you can ask them a favor to do some of the chores like cleaning your cavy’s cage.
If you have guinea pigs, try to keep from touching them directly. Use a blanket or cozie if you have to pick them up. If you don’t touch them, it will be easier for you to manage your allergies.
Just don’t forget to make sure that your little friends have plenty of stimulation and enrichment without you.
7. Take some medication.
Lot of people take some form of medication to help manage their guinea pig allergies. Some of the most common medications include the following:
- Antihistamines: These are medicines that help stop allergies. They reduce allergy symptoms.
- Decongestants: If you’re experiencing nasal inflammation, you can use nasal spray decongestants. Decongestants are medicines that help get rid of your stuffy nose.
- Allergy shots: Some people will start a round of shots to help with their allergies.
Before you start self-medicating, it’s best to always seek the approval of your doctor or allergist.
Evaluating how severe your allergy is a crucial step in deciding whether having a skinny pig (or any kind of guinea pig) is the right choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Allergies and Hypoallergenic Piggies
Do Hairless Guinea Pigs Have Dander?
Hairless guinea pigs have dander (or dead skin cells) like every other guinea pig. Actually, you’re more likely to be exposed to dander because skinny pigs don’t have fur to catch or cover up the dander.
Are Skinny Pigs Better For Allergies?
Skinny pigs aren’t better for allergies. The only advantage to having a skinny pig instead of a furry pig is that skinny pigs don’t have large amounts of fur on their bodies.
Since guinea pig fur is contaminated by allergens (like urine), it is less likely that allergens will enter your body that way.
However, since guinea pigs don’t have any fur, their dander is fully exposed to you.
Final Thoughts About Nonexistent Hypoallergenic Skinny Pigs
If you’re considering adopting a skinny pig (or even a regular guinea pig), be sure to do your research first. That way, you can make an informed decision before bringing home one of these cute critters!
This includes learning about allergen release from the animals and how they can affect humans with allergies.
Although skinny pigs may seem to be hypoallergenic because they are hairless, this is not true. Hypoallergenic breeds of guinea pigs don’t exist.
Guinea pigs, no matter if their hair is short or long, all release proteins into their skin cells, urine, and other bodily fluids. These can jumpstart allergic reactions in you.
But, piggie pet allergies aren’t the only things you need to watch out for.
All grass allergy sufferers need to be careful – especially if you have severe allergies. Because hay is a common allergen that causes allergic reactions in pet parents.
Before getting your hopes up, consult your doctor or allergist about whether or not a skinny pig (or a regular pig) is a good fit for you.