Love Your Pet, Not Your Pet Allergies

Dogs, cats, hamsters, and guinea pigs are all common household pets. They provide companionship and studies have shown that simply stroking their fur can lower blood pressure. Not to mention they are a whole lot easier to take care of than children. Just kidding! Other health benefits of owning a pet are lessening of anxiety and depression.

But, if you are allergic to furred animals the sneezing, wheezing, itchy and watery eyes, coughing, or nasal congestion you experience can reduce the joy of owning a pet. It doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to live with your pet and your pet allergies.

Pet Dander Allergies To Cat & DogsWhy are you allergic to your pets? Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, hamsters and other furred animals have a protein in their saliva and urine that is a common allergen. While the allergic reaction is the same, the protein is different for each different animal. But these individual proteins are very similar. Many people that are allergic to cats are also allergic to dogs, rabbits and horses.


In cats, the problem protein is the Fel d1 protein. Because this protein is found in the saliva, each time the cats grooms itself this protein is spread over the skin and fur of the animal. Since cats spend up to 30% of their time grooming, they can spread lots of this protein around in a single day. In addition, each time the cat empties its bladder (whether in a litter box inside or in the yard outside) little bits of this protein also adhere to the skin and fur.

If the protein stayed on the animal, people wouldn’t have a problem unless they were petted. However, as the protein dries up it flakes off and becomes airborne. In addition, when the animal sheds bits of skin (dander) or fur the protein will also be shed and can be inhaled. Once inhaled, the protein is misidentified by the immune system. Because an IgE has been created by the immune system due to a previous exposure, this subsequent exposure causes the mast cells to be stimulated and launch an immune system defense attack. However, there is no intruder to attack, just the harmless protein. So, in order to prevent the IgE from being triggered you have to go after the protein.

This is why for many years allergists and other physicians routinely recommended that people with allergies of any sort not have any pets in the home. Now we know that is not always necessary. Often, it is also not practical. Our pets become family members and it is very hard to kick a member out of the family! Some simple steps can be taken to minimize the amount of this rogue protein in the home so that the amount of protein to which the allergic person is exposed is reduced.

How do you deal with the allergens? Vacuum regularly to remove the shed bits of skin and fur. However, make sure that when you vacuum you actually make the room better and not worse. Vacuum with a sealed system (canisters are preferred) vacuum cleaner and make sure it has a quality HEPA filter. When purchasing a vacuum you want true HEPA (not HEPA style or HEPA like). This is because HEPA is a standard of filtration that means that 99.95% of particles as small as 0.3 microns will be arrested by the filter. If your vacuum cleaner has attachments, use them to vacuum upholstered furniture and draperies. Because even a sealed vacuum with a HEPA filter can stir up allergens, keep the allergic person out of the room for at least an hour after you clean. If you are the allergic person and you are assigned the cleaning duties, wear a mask to protect yourself from these airborne particles.

Wearing a face mask or staying out of the room also applies to dusting. Be sure that you dust with damp cloths or rags and keep the number of dust catchers to a minimum. This makes it easier to keep things clean and the fewer surfaces in a room on which the shed protein can land; the better it is for the allergic person.

If you have rugs, carpets, or upholstered furniture you can apply tannic acid or other neutralizing agents to denature the protein. Tannic acid is so powerful that it will only need to be applied a few times a year. Unfortunately tannic acid can also stain. If you have light colored items you may want to use a denaturing agent such as Alkaline Lab’s ADMS Anti-Allergen Spray. This can be safely applied once a month and will not stain or discolor the treated items.

To take care of the allergen on the pet, be sure to groom the animal regularly. There are special pet shampoos such as Pet+ that can be used once a month to wash away pet allergen. Because you might not want to wash your cat or hamster, there are coat conditioners, such as Allerpet C for cats and D for dogs, you can use to neutralize the protein. Simply brush the animal to remove any loose fur and then rub the Allerpet into the fur. By applying once a week, the Allerpet will keep the protein neutralized before it is shed from the animal.

With a little effort you can live with your pet and your pet allergies and reap the rewards of pet ownership.


Wishing you the best of health



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