Family Media
Sign-Up for Offers

Be Alert to Animal Allergies

Posted on

By Barbara Jarvie Castiglia

Did you know allergies to cats and dogs can affect between 10 and 20 percent of the world’s population, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America? Millions choose to live with pets despite having allergies, though. If you or someone in your family is affected by allergies, there are things you can do to be proactive about your family’s health and still provide a happy, healthy home environment for your pet.

As you might expect, the pets most people are allergic to are mammals with fur such as dogs, cats, horses, and gerbils. Animals with feathers can also be the culprit. Amphibians and fish are at the bottom of the list. While many people think it’s pets’ fur causing allergic reactions, people are actually allergic to a protein in animals’ dander, which is shed dead skin cells, as well as saliva and urine. The length of an animals’ fur really has nothing to do with allergen levels, even though that is a common myth. With cats, many people are allergic to a protein in cats’ saliva that can stick to fur when they groom themselves. 

Common animal allergy symptoms to watch for are runny nose, scratchy throat, watery eyes, and general itchiness. A person can develop a pet allergy at any time during their lifetime. Some people will experience only minor distress, while others can have potentially fatal reactions. Animal allergies can also contribute to asthma and cause more intense asthma symptoms. 

If you would like to add a pet to your family but are unsure of allergies or have a history of allergies in the family, there are still several options available. Your best bet, of course, is to adopt fish, turtles, or reptiles. But, if that doesn’t suit your family, you could also try to foster a dog or cat for a bit to see if any family member has a reaction. While there is no such thing as 100-percent hypoallergenic dog breeds, a few are known to be better choices, according to the American Kennel Club. These breeds include Afghan Hounds, Irish Water Spaniels, Bichon Frises, Maltese, and Poodles. Suggested cat breeds for allergy sufferers include Sphynx, Balinese, Siberian, and Devon Rex, according to petMD.

If you already have a beloved pet when another family member develops allergies, you can attempt to manage the situation. Be sure to consult your allergy specialist and veterinarian for best practices. 

• Make sure the allergy sufferer has limited exposure to the pet. 

• Do not allow pets to have access to bedrooms.

• Try to keep pets off any fabric furniture where the fur and dander can easily collect.

• Keep pets out of closets and away from clothes.

• If possible, have a dedicated space for pets’ bedding (and launder it frequently). 

• Bathe dogs on a weekly basis. (Though it can be more of a challenge, cats can be bathed, too.) 

• Ensure the whole family is diligent about hand washing, particularly after contact with pets.

• Brush pets every day.

• Dust and vacuum the home daily.

• Invest in pet wipes designed to remove dirt and reduce dander.

• Consider using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air filters/purifiers throughout the home. 

• Avoid feather-filled pillows. 

Nabisco Fall Savings