What To Do When Your Allergenic Pet Is Making You Sick
Although we tend to think of long-haired cats and dogs as the type of pets most likely to cause allergy symptoms, it’s animal dander, not hair, that causes the problems. Allergenic pets cause allergies because of the animal dander, which is a mix of tiny particles of skin, fur, or hair that is shed or secreted and becomes airborne. Short-haired or even hairless cats and dogs are just as effective at contributing to indoor allergens as long-haired animals. The fact is, there’s no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat.
Sensitive persons might react to the urine of a guinea pig or the saliva of a dog or cat.
According to the American Lung Association, proteins found in saliva, urine and feces can cause allergic reactions in some people. Dried saliva containing allergens may flake off from an animal’s fur and become airborne, where it is inhaled by the allergic person. Dust from dried feces can be suspended in the same way.
Are You Allergic To Your Pet?
A good way to find out if you’re allergic to your pet is to see if you continue to have severe allergy symptoms after being away from the animal for two to three weeks. If it turns out that Puss or Fido is the culprit, it may be necessary to find a new home for your pet. Even then, because of their microscopic size and jagged shape, pet allergens will stick to furniture, bedding, curtains and so on long after the animal has been removed. And allergy and asthma symptoms may take weeks or months to improve.
READ MORE: Allergy Avoidance in the Home
Tips For Living With Your Allergenic Pet
For many people, getting rid of their allergenic pet is simply unthinkable. In that case, here are some measures to take to alleviate the situation:
1. Don’t allow your allergenic pet in the bedroom and don’t let it lie on furniture, especially upholstery. When pets get on furniture, they leave behind proteins that act as allergens, triggering allergic reactions in allergy sufferers.
2. Clean your home often and don’t allow dust to accumulate.
3. Keep the animal outside as much as possible.
4. Whenever possible, have someone other than the allergic person handle pet grooming, litterbox and pet cage/carrier maintenance.
5. Have air ducts, carpets and furniture professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
6. Brush your pet frequently to remove loose dander and hair. Always brush your pet outdoors, rather than inside the home, and wear a mask.
7. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recommends giving your pet weekly baths to reduce the presence of airborne allergens in your home. Check with your veterinarian or local pet store to find out what products are available. When it comes time to bathe your pet, have someone do it who isn’t allergic. Or take the animal to a dog/cat groomer instead. Note: Don’t use human shampoos or conditioners on pets – they are usually too acidic and contain irritating additives.
8. If you’re going to visit someone who has a pet, take antihistamines or other medication so you’ll be able to tolerate limited exposure to the animal. If you’re staying overnight, it may be possible to have the animal temporarily removed while you’re there. The room you sleep in should be thoroughly cleaned and the bedding changed before your visit.
Cover All Your Bases
Keep in mind that living animals aren’t the only source of allergens. Clothing made of mohair, alpaca, cashmere, or goat hair can trigger allergic reactions, as can horsehair-stuffed chairs and sofas. Feathers and down can do the same. If you’re sensitive to feathers, stay away from down-filled comforters, sleeping bags, and ski jackets; use synthetic-filled items instead.