Allergic to your pet? There’s help

8 years ago

Allergic to your pet? There’s help

‘Mews and Yips’ from the Central Aroostook Humane Society

By Amanda McQueen

If you are anything like me, just the thought of a cat starts a reaction of itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose and skin and uncontrollable fits of sneezing. For some reason, though, I just can not stop snuggling them right up to my face. I just love cats, and always have, and though my body tells me to stay away I just won’t let my allergies take those sweet fur-babies from me!

Allergies don’t have to mean separation. Although many people have discovered the beneficial effects of caring for a furry friend, the fact remains that roughly 15-20 percent of the population is allergic to animals. Countless pet parents are in unhappy, unhealthy situations, and their beloved pets are the cause.
The most common pet allergens are proteins found in their dander (scales of old skin that are constantly shed by an animal), saliva, urine and sebaceous cells. Any animal can trigger an allergic response, but cats are the most common culprits. People can also become allergic to exotic pets such as ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, rabbits and rodents. SH PETBULLETIN 23 16 17814063
There is no species or breed to which humans cannot develop allergies. Fur length and type will not affect or prevent allergies. Some pets can be less irritating than others to those who suffer from allergies, but that is strictly on an individual basis and cannot be predicted.
Once the diagnosis of a pet allergy is made, a physician will often recommend eliminating the companion animal from the surroundings. Heartbreaking? Yes. Absolutely necessary? Not always.
Keep in mind that most people are allergic to several things besides pets, such as dust mites, molds and pollens, all of which can be found in the home. Allergic symptoms result from the total cumulative allergen load. That means that if you eliminate some of the other allergens, you may not have to get rid of your pet. You must also be prepared to invest the time and effort needed to decontaminate your home environment, limit future exposure to allergens and find a physician who will work with you.
To improve your environment:
Create an allergen-free room. A bedroom is often the best and most practical choice. By preventing your pet from entering this room, you can ensure at least eight hours of freedom from allergens every night.
Use hypoallergenic bedding and pillow materials.
Limit fabrics. Allergens collect in rugs, drapes and upholstery, so do your best to limit or eliminate them from your home. If you choose to keep some fabrics, steam-clean them regularly.
Vacuum frequently using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter or a disposable electrostatic bag.
Install an air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter.
Use anti-allergen room sprays.
Clean the litter box frequently. Use low-dust, perfume-free filler.
Dust regularly. Wiping down the walls will also cut down on allergens.
Invest in washable pet bedding and cages that can be cleaned often and easily.
Decontaminating your pet is also helpful. Bathe your pet often. Your veterinarian can recommend a shampoo that won’t dry out his skin. Note any symptoms of dermatitis, which often leads to accelerated skin and fur shedding, which will up your allergen exposure. Brush or comb your pet frequently.
Lastly, take care of yourself. If possible, have someone other than yourself do the house cleaning, litter box work and pet washing, wiping and brushing. If you must clean the house or change the litter, be sure to wear a dust mask.
Wash your hands after handling your companion animal and before touching your face. Designate a “pet outfit” from among your most easily washed clothes. Wear it when playing or cuddling with your companion, and you’ll leave other clothing uncontaminated.
Find a physician, preferably an allergy specialist, who will make sure that your pet is the cause of your allergies and will help alleviate your symptoms. Medications and immunotherapy (desensitizing shots) can often allow you and your companion animal to remain together happily ever after.
(Adapted from
Amanda McQueen is vice president of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.