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Allergies and Pets

Dander, Dust, & Healthy Air

A Vacuum Can Help You Live with Pets and Allergies

(From the Mayo Clinic and WebMD)

Animal Allergies and Their Cause

Owning a pet does not make someone immune to pet allergies, and having pet allergies does not mean you have to live without a pet. It is estimated 15% of the population has pet allergies. Understanding pet allergies, the cause, and preventative measures can make it possible to live comfortably with pets even though you suffer from allergies.

Pet allergy is actually an allergic reaction to certain proteins. Those proteins are found in the animal's skin cells, saliva, or urine.  More often than not pet allergy symptoms (which resemble hay fever) are exacerbated by exposure to dander (the dead flakes of skin the animal sheds).  While any animal can trigger an allergic reaction, pets and cats are usually associated with pet allergies. The following are symptoms of pet allergies:

  • Sneezing

  • Runny nose

  • Itchy, red or watery eyes

  • Nasal congestion

  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat

  • Postnasal drip

  • Cough

  • Facial pressure and pain

  • Frequent awakening

  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes

  • In a child, frequent upward rubbing of the nose


Pet allergies can also contribute to asthma and could then include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Chest tightness or pain

  • Audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling

  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing


Skin rashes, hives, and itchy skin may also be symptoms of pet allergies.  Allergic dermatitis is skin inflammation that is caused by an immune system reaction.  These reactions are the result of direct physical contact with the pet.

Allergies and Your Pet

Cats and Dogs:  While allergens from cats and dogs are found in dander, saliva, and pet hairs, dander causes the most difficult because it is so small and can be airborne for a long period of time with minimal air circulation. In addition, it collects on upholstered furniture and sticks to clothes. Pet saliva, another source of allergens, can also stick to carpets, bedding, furniture and clothing, and dried saliva, like dander,  can become airborne.

A hypoallergenic dog may shed less fur than a shedding dog, but understanding that saliva and skin cells are the main culprits in pet allergies helps us to understand that no dog breed is truly hypoallergenic.

Rodents and Rabbits: While I am at a loss to fully understand why someone would own a rodent as a pet, many people enjoy their rodents, and allergies can also be a problem. Rodent pets include mice, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. Like dogs and cats, allergens from rodents are usually in hair, dander, saliva, and urine. The litter dust or sawdust in the bottom of a cage can contribute to airborne allergens from rodents. Rabbit allergens are present in dander, hair, and saliva.

Other Pets:  Pet allergy is rarely caused by animals that don't have fur, such as fish and reptiles.

Understanding pet allergies is important for people who love pets.  If there are pets in your home, you either have allergies or you don’t, but beware, because even people without allergies can develop them. This is why it is important to understand what causes them.

Doctors recommend a three-pronged approach to living with pets and allergies. 

1.  Avoidance and eliminate allergens.

  • Limit the areas of the house where the pet is allowed, particularly the bedroom and the bed.  If you have pet allergies, shut the bedroom door.

  • Clean and vacuum regularly, utilizing a central vacuum that exhausts outside or a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

  • Buy a HEPA air filter.

  • Remove dander-trapping carpet.  Go for bare floors that can be cleaned thoroughly.

  • Wash bedding frequently in hot water.

  • Wash your hands after playing with the animal.

  • Bathe your pet frequently.  In the case of small pets, like rodents, towelettes are available in pet stores.

  • Reduce skin shedding by keeping your animal’s skin healthy with vitamins.

2.  Medicate with topical or inhaled corticosteroids available from your physician.

3.  See allergists about testing and allergy shots.  Many allergy sufferers are enthusiastic about allergy shots because over time their allergies disappear. 

Cat and Allergies
Flowers, pollen, Dust and Dirt
Guinea Pig allergies
Upright vacuum
Vacuum on a regular basis for alle allergies
Vacuum Flter for fine dust
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