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Rabbits are small, fluffy bundles of joy that are loved by a lot of people out there. However, some people might be hesitant about having a pet rabbit due to their pet allergies. So are rabbits hypoallergenic? And what breeds are the best for those who suffer from allergies?
Like most other pets, no rabbit breed is completely free of allergens. However, some rabbit breeds were found to be more tolerable by rabbit owners than others, such as the Rex Rabbits, the Silver Marten Rabbits, and the Tan Rabbits.
If you want to find out more about rabbits and whether they’re suitable for those with pet allergies, you’re in for a treat!
In today’s article, I’ll walk you through a brief guide with everything you need to know regarding this topic, based on my research and experiences. Let’s dive right in!
What Does a Hypoallergenic Pet Mean?
Before going in depth regarding rabbits’ allergies, we should first understand what allergic reactions are and why some pets cause them. Ideally, “hypoallergenic” refers to anything that will trigger little to no allergic reactions in the body.
Allergic reactions are produced due to histamine, which is a chemical released in our body as a response to exposure to certain elements, chemicals, substances, etc. because our immune system thinks that these allergens are a threat to us.
The thing is, humans have various levels of tendencies to produce histamine, and therefore, some people are more likely to suffer from an allergic reaction than others. A hyper allergic person produces large amounts of histamine due to exposure to the slightest amount of the allergen.
Hypo means “low” not “none”. In other words, a hypoallergenic pet would still produce triggering allergens, but on a much smaller scale when compared to other pets.
This means that, unless you’re a person with an extremely high level of allergen sensitivity, you can live with a hypoallergenic pet.
Are There Any Rabbits That Don’t Cause Allergies?
To put it simply, there is no such thing as a pet that doesn’t cause allergies. Almost all pets out there will still produce allergens, but some of them would do that on an extremely small scale that doesn’t trigger most humans, which is why they’re called “hypoallergenic”.
So, while there are no rabbits that don’t cause any types of allergies, there are rabbits that don’t cause major issues to those who suffer from allergies.
When it comes to rabbits, you should know that different breeds of rabbits can have various allergenic impacts on homeowners.
Some rabbit species can be tolerable even for those with some forms of allergies while others can be extremely problematic, even for those with minor allergies.
What Exactly Causes Allergies from Rabbits?
To further understand rabbit allergies, you should know what exactly causes allergies from rabbits. This is also the reason why some rabbits are somewhat hypoallergenic while others are quite dangerous around people with allergies.
Pet allergy, including rabbit allergy, doesn’t mean that you’re allergic to the animal’s hair or skin itself. Instead, you’re sensitive to what is caught in this hair, and then is released into the air, also known as “animal dander”.
This dander is actually a combination of skin cells and proteins produced by the animal cells (called antigens), which get stuck to the rabbit’s hair and are released as they start to shed their fur coat.
This also explains why rabbits breeds and other pets with longer hair are more associated with allergies than those with shorter hairs.
For that reason, the symptoms of pet allergies are usually more noticeable during the shedding or molting seasons of the pet, which is around spring and fall for rabbits.
These proteins and cells are also found in rabbits’ urine and saliva, which explains the skin allergies that some people suffer from upon contact with rabbits.
Why Can’t Scientists Breed a Fully Hypoallergenic Rabbit?
Now that you understand why there are no real hypoallergenic rabbit breeds you might be wondering why nobody tried to breed out the trait of producing such allergens.
The problem here is that these elements and proteins are quite necessary for vital and biological functions within rabbits and serve a purpose before being released from their bodies, which makes it extremely difficult to selectively breed it out.
Although science is yet to find a way to do so, many rabbit breeders over the ages have selectively bred rabbits so that they have shorter hairs or shed less fur.
This way, the allergens would be confined to the rabbit’s body and reduce the impact of their antigens and proteins on allergic people
How Do I Know If I’m Allergic to Rabbits?
Allergy from rabbits is quite similar to pet allergy symptoms in general. In other words, if you already suffer from allergies around regular pets, such as cats and dogs, you’ll most likely suffer from pet allergies from rabbits as well.
The symptoms of rabbit allergies are also exacerbated during the shedding season of your rabbit or when you’re not grooming him or her frequently.
These symptoms aren’t usually serious and would usually revolve around watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, etc.
Will Your Asthma Exacerbate If You Have a Rabbit?
If you don’t have allergies towards pets in general, you shouldn’t worry much about allergies caused by rabbits.
However, if you have respiratory conditions, such as bronchial asthma, rabbit allergies can be serious and worsen their symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty in breathing (shortness of breath) and hearing audible wheezing while inhaling
- Continuous coughing, which can cause troubles while sleeping at night
- Tightness in the chest (usually accompanied with dull pain in the lungs)
These findings are based on various research regarding the relationship between allergens and asthma, including a 2007 study regarding rabbits and their effect on asthma.
In this study, it was found that proteins produced by rabbits were directly associated with exacerbations of rhinitis and/or bronchial asthma.
For that reason, the best way to deal with asthma and heavy pet allergies is to avoid having a rabbit or other allergenic pets altogether.
Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications like antihistamines or corticosteroids to reduce the symptoms and manage your asthma.
How Common Are Allergies from Rabbits?
According to data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), it was found that about 30% of all Americans suffer from pet allergies and are sensitive to the type of dander that is produced by rabbits.
Luckily, when it comes to serious allergies, such as respiratory allergies and asthma, rabbits are less likely to cause serious effects. According to the same study mentioned above, there are a few reports of serious respiratory allergies to rabbits, despite being a common household pelt.
One more thing you should know about rabbit allergy is that it can also be induced, even if you didn’t have pet allergies before.
This was confirmed in a study in an Italian hospital where 20 subjects (out of 753) that didn’t suffer from pet allergies were sensitized to rabbits upon contact with them.
This means that about 2.65% of healthy individuals who interact with rabbits can become allergic to them later on. Of course, these numbers make it quite unlikely to happen to you, but you should still keep that in mind.
How to Reduce the Impact of Rabbit Allergy on You
Of course, the sure-fire way to avoid the impact of any rabbit allergies is to take the easy route and avoid having one in the first place. Yet, since different humans have various levels of reactivity towards rabbits, being allergic to pets doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a serious situation.
If you only have a mild allergy to rabbits, there are some things that you can do in order to enjoy the company of your furry friend. Let’s have a quick look at them:
1 – Confine Your Rabbits to Specific Areas
The first thing that you can do to minimize the impact of your rabbits on your allergies is to confine them to a specific area.
By keeping your rabbit off furniture and carpets, you’ll reduce your chances of getting exposed to dander. This is because fabrics in upholstery end up trapping much more dander than bare floors, which makes cleanup and vacuuming much harder.
2 – Brush Your Rabbit Consistently
By brushing your rabbit consistently, all the dander caught in their fur coat will be removed before it starts floating around your house.
This strategy will only work during regular times, as you should avoid brushing your rabbit during shedding seasons, as the dander will be intolerable.
3 – Minimize Your Contact
While it might be a little hard on some of us, you should avoid petting and touching your pet too often, and when you do, make sure that you wash your hands and brush off your clothes to remove the dander.
You can also consider wearing a mask while playing with your rabbits to reduce respiratory problems caused by dander.
4 – Clean The Rabbit’s Habitat Outside
To avoid spreading rabbit dander all over your place, make sure that you always take your rabbit’s enclosure out while cleaning it or ask someone else to do it for you and vacuum before you enter the room.
What Rabbit Breeds Are Hypoallergenic?
Although there are no “fully hypoallergenic” rabbits out there, some rabbit breeds were found to cause fewer problems with allergic people than others. So, if you’re considering a rabbit as a pet, here are some of the best possible options to keep in mind:
1 – Rex Rabbits
The rex rabbit is, by far, the best possible option to consider if you suffer from rabbit allergies. Rex rabbits come in mini and medium size variants, and while both of them are excellent choices, the smaller variant is even less allergenic.
The reason why these rabbits are suitable for people with mild allergies is that they have smooth fur coats with shorter hairs that don’t shed as much as other breeds and produce little dander.
Additionally, the rabbits come in various patterns and colors that make them unique and beautiful.
2 – Angora Rabbits
This one is a matter of remarkable debate among rabbit breeders, as some believe that it’s an excellent rabbit for those with mild allergies while others think that it’s not the best.
Angora rabbits have long hairs in their fur coats, which makes some people think that they’re bad for people with allergies.
However, Angora rabbits are known for being one of the least shedding rabbits out there, so despite having long hair, they don’t shed much, and therefore, they don’t spread dander as much as you think.
3 – Tan Rabbits
Tan rabbits are another rabbit breed that you might want to consider if you’re mildly allergic to pet dander. Since these rabbits are very low maintenance when compared to other breeds, you’ll have to groom them much less.
They also have a very calm temperament and are less skittish than other rabbits, so they don’t spread much dander around.
4 – Silver Marten Rabbits
Last but not least, we have the Silver Marten Rabbits. These rabbits are medium sized breeds with a relatively dense fur coat that ranges from dark gray and silver to black. This one is known for being one of the most popular breeds for pet shows and competitions due to its trainability and cuteness.
The rabbit is also quite affordable and doesn’t require a lot of grooming, so it’s ideal for those who prefer minimum contact with the pet.
With that said, today’s guide about rabbit allergies and whether there are hypoallergenic rabbits comes to an end.
To sum things up, you should keep in mind that there are no rabbit breeds that are completely allergen-free, as the proteins and dander causing the allergy are also critical for their survival.
However, some rabbit species, especially the Rex family (regular or mini), tend to cause much less exacerbation of allergies when compared to other species.
Despite that, If you suffer from serious pet allergies, I think that rabbits are simply not the ideal pet for you. You should also consult your doctor for professional advice before having a pet rabbit in your house to be on the safe side.