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What Is Pet Dander and How Do You Get Rid Of It?

What Is Pet Dander and How Do You Get Rid Of It?

If you have pets and have allergies, you have probably been told to reduce your exposure to pet dander. Easy enough if you know what pet dander is and where to find it. But if you don’t have the right information, you can waste time, money and energy on efforts that aren’t effective. So, let’s take a look at what pet dander is and how to get rid of it.

What is pet dander?

Pet dander is very tiny particles of skin that had been shed from animals with fur or feathers. So, foxes produce dander, parrots produce dander, and horses produce dander. Since most people don’t have these animals in their home, their dander is not a problem. But the dander from cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets and small rodents is a problem. All animals shed bits of skin. Some of the bits are large enough to be seen with our eyes. Other bits are so small you can’t see them without a microscope. No matter the size of the dander, it is a problem if you are allergic to animals.

Why is pet dander a problem?

For people with allergies, pet dander is a real problem. The dander contains a protein that causes allergic reactions.  In addition, the protein is also found in the urine and saliva of these animals as well. So, every time the animal empties it’s bladder the protein from the urine can stick to the skin. Even if you take your dog outside and down the street to do its business, you are going to bring some of that allergen back inside in the form of tiny droplets of urine that touch the skin. Once that bit of skin is shed, it has a double dose of the protein that causes the allergic reaction. Dose one is the skin itself and dose two is the protein from the urine.


But wait, there’s more! The protein that causes allergic reactions is also found in the saliva of the animal too. Now every time the cat or dog (or rabbit or ferret) licks, it spreads the protein. Since our pets bathe by licking their fur and skin, they add more of the allergy-causing protein.  The skin that was groomed by the pet has a double dose of the protein thanks to the saliva.


When you inhale these tiny particles of skin, skin + urine, or skin + saliva your immune system thinks it is under attack by germs. In allergic people, the immune system misidentifies these harmless proteins as evil invaders. It creates a specific antibody for the protein. Next time it sees the protein, it cues the antibody to start stimulating mast cells. A cascade of reactions occurs and the result is one or more of these symptoms:


> Itchy or watery eyes
> Coughing
> Sneezing
> Wheezing
> Eczema
> Stuffy nose or a runny nose.


Now that is a problem. For as long as the exposure continues, the reaction continues. A prolonged allergy attack can lead to a secondary infection such as bronchitis, sinusitis, or otitis media (ear infection). Allergies can also trigger asthma.


How Pet Dander is Spread

Those small bits of skin have ragged edges. They are also very light-weight. That is a terrible combination. It means that the ragged edges allow the dander to stick to absolutely everything and the light mass makes it laugh in the face of gravity.


The dander flakes off the animal and becomes airborne. If you don’t inhale it immediately, it will stick to the first surface it hits. Once shed, the dander repeatedly floats in the air, sticks to a surface, and then becomes airborne again. Every little disturbance sends it into the air. As soon as it touches something, it hangs on until it gets knocked loose again.


In reality, this dander hitches a ride on people and belongings. You can go to the mall and find cat dander; even if a cat has never been in the mall. That’s because the dander rides on the clothes of pet owners. Dander can be found in offices, hospitals, and many places where pets don’t usually go. It rides in human hair and on clothing. It is easily transferred. A cat owner can take dander on an airplane, transfer it from their clothes to the seat and leave it behind for the next passenger. Dander can fly coast to coast. Animal dander is where you don’t expect it. 


How do you get rid of animal dander?

If pet dander is so easily spread, how do you get rid of it? You can get rid of pet dander by grooming the pet to reduce the amount of dander produced, vacuuming frequently, using a HEPA air filter, use anti-allergen sprays and limiting where the pet goes.


First, brush your pet regularly to remove dead skin cells and fur. Ideally, brush the pet outside. If you are highly allergic, wear a mask while you groom the pet.


Resist the temptation to frequently wash the animal. The more you wash, the greater the chances you will dry out the animal’s skin. Dry skin flakes more easily. So, frequent washing can actually make the situation worse. Better instead to wipe the pet down between washes with wipes made for pet grooming or apply a coat conditioner like Allerpet Pet Solutions to remove loose dander. As a bonus, Allerpet also conditions, which can slow down the shedding process.


Dander denaturing agents are available in spray and powder form. We recommend the sprays in most situations. Anti-allergen sprays are easy to use and when used properly are very effective. Look for tannic-acid based products or products that use alkaline substances or enzymes that break down the problem causing proteins. Vacuum first before spraying, and if using for the first time test for colorfastness. Tannic acid based solutions can cause staining. Personally, we recommend the Allersearch ADMS Anti Allergen spray because it is highly effective and can be used on most fiber surfaces.


If you want to do something frequently, vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner. And speaking of vacuum cleaners, stay away from the models without a bag. You don’t want to expose yourself to allergens when you empty a dust container. Vacuum thoroughly. This is where a canister-style vacuum cleaner comes in handy. Vacuum walls, floors, carpets, rugs, furniture, and draperies.


Many pet owners find relief from allergies by running an air cleaner. Run the air cleaner in the room where you and the pet spend the most time. Make sure it has a good HEPA filter and the machine is the right size for the room.


Now for the really hard part. Keep the pet out of the bedroom and especially off the bed. You don’t want your bed covered in dander. You sleep 8 hours every night, make sure you sleep in a dander-free zone.


In addition, wash dog toys frequently to remove dried saliva, a source of allergen. Cat owners should wear a mask when cleaning the cat box as the urine is rich in allergy-causing protein.


So now you know what pet dander is and how to get rid of it. See, with a little work, you can live with pets and pet allergy.


Wishing you the best of health

The Allergy Store


Allergy elimination is about eliminating the allergy-causing substance in your home the best you can. Once you do this, you may be able to eliminate the need for all the medications and doctor visits. For additional information please click here to download your free copy of" You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living. 


Helpful Products


Allerpet C Pet Solution (for cats)

Allerpet D Pet Solution (for dogs)

Allersearch ADMS Anti-Allergen Spray

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