Allergies to pets

- Are you allergic to your pet? Don’t worry -- you can still keep your animal companion.

About 15 to 20 percent of the population is allergic to animals. Which can result in some unhappy, unhealthy owners! Allergens can cause symptoms such as red, itchy, watery eyes and nose; sneezing; coughing; sore throat; itchy skin, and difficulty breathing. The most common pet allergens are proteins found in their dander, saliva, urine and sebaceous cells. Any animal can trigger an allergic response, but cats are the most common culprits. 

There is hope! Keep in mind most people are allergic to several things besides pets, such as dust mites, molds, and pollen, all of which can be found in the home. Allergic symptoms result from the total cumulative allergen load. That means if you eliminate some of the other allergens, you may not have to get rid of your pet.

  1. 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. It's a good idea to use hypoallergenic bedding and pillow materials.
  2. Vacuum and dust frequently using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter or a disposable electrostatic bag. Wiping down the walls will also cut down on allergens.
  3. Install an air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter. Modern, energy-efficient homes lock in air that is loaded with allergens, so it’s smart to let in some fresh air daily. 
  4. Invest in washable pet bedding and cages that can be cleaned often and easily.
  5. Bathe your pet at least once a week. Your veterinarian can recommend a shampoo that won't dry out his skin. Bathing works to wash off the allergens that accumulate in an animal’s fur.
  6. Brush or comb your pet frequently. It’s best to do this outdoors, if possible.
  7. If possible, have someone other than yourself do the housecleaning, 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.
  8. Wash your hands after handling your companion animal and before touching your face. The areas around your nose and eyes are particularly sensitive to allergens.

(information from the Houston Humane Society)

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