For many people, adding a dog or cat to the family unit is an important part of creating a life. That is, until the allergies come. Allergies are basically the body's way of guarding against harmful invaders. People fight sickness with their immune system, but if your disease-fighting guard works overtime, it can lead to allergies stemming from normally benign proteins from pet dander.

So what exactly is dander? It's dead skin that your pet has shed. It sits in his fur and gets on the floors and furniture in your home. In fact, the hair itself isn't the allergen -- it's the dander that does the damage.

Living with pet allergies is a fact of life for a lot of people, whether it's because they just can't bear to live without the companionship of a cat or dog, or because friends and relatives keep pets. A lot of pet lovers have allergies, and the good news is that that when your allergist recommends you get rid of your pets (true story), you can ignore him, because there are some ways that you can minimize the effects of having your main allergen as a snuggle buddy.