Are you Allergic to your Dog or Cat?
Veterinarian Reviewed on April 22, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
President Obama chose a Portuguese Water Dog to be his family’s pet because his daughter, Malia, has allergies. The Portuguese Water Dog is considered a hypoallergenic breed of dog and is therefore ideal for Malia.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the dogs and cats that people are allergic to, but rather it is their dander that they are allergic to. More specifically it is a protein that is present in the pets’ dander and saliva that people are really allergic to. These allergens then become airborne as microscopic particles and when they inhaled through a person’s nose or lungs, they can cause an allergic reaction.
The American Kennel Club created a list of dogs that produce less dander and that are therefore more suitable for dog owners who are also allergy sufferers. These dog breeds are:
- Bedlington Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested (hairless)
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Poodles (Toy, Miniature or Standard)
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Schnauzer (Miniature, Standard or Giant)
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Viringo (Peruvian hairless)
- Xoloitzcuintli (hairless)
But what if you have a dog that is not on this list and you suffer from allergies? Well, there are still plenty of things that you can do to prevent allergy attacks that stem from your pet’s dander, besides taking an anti-histamine tablet, of course. Here are a few tips and suggestions:
For most people, their allergies come in the form of an asthma attack that usually comes during the night. If you or your children suffer from asthma, do not let your dog or cat sleep in your bedroom with you or your children.
If, however, your dog is used to sleeping in your bedroom since he was a pup or your cat keeps you up at night by scratching at your bedroom door, then it is advisable that you keep one of your bedroom windows cracked open and also try to keep your bedroom as dust free as you possibly can.
Most homes today come with lovely, thick carpeting throughout the house and whilst you cannot always avoid carpets, they are a great trap for dust and dander. It would be most beneficial to you to not have any carpets or area rugs in your bedroom as this will help you to have a good night’s sleep that is allergy free. If you can, it would be most beneficial to you to have hard wood floors throughout your house, including your bedroom. Make sure that you vacuum your carpets every day.
Keep your surroundings clean
When choosing a vacuum cleaner, opt for one that has a HEPA filter in it. Most households inadvertently house dust mites, pollen and animal dander in carpets, flooring and upholstery. The HEPA filter will actually work to pick up these allergens and retain them so that they can no longer cause you to have an allergic reaction. Vacuum cleaners without a HEPA filter do not always pick up as many allergens as a HEPA filter does and some even blow what it does pick up back into the air, resulting in your allergies being worse.
You should also buy an air cleaner that has a HEPA filter in it too, because this will help provide you with cleaner and allergen free air to breathe in your home.
Pet bathing tips
Bathe your pet on a regular basis or, if you can’t do it yourself have a groomer do it for you. You should definitely consider this is if your pet has a long coat. By giving your pet regular grooming sessions, you will be able to help eliminate the amount of dander that is emitted.
If your pet has allergies, bathe him or her using a gentle, all natural soap that will help ease your pet’s skin allergies.
Remember to always wash your pets bedding and blankets on a weekly basis and make sure that the area in which they sleep is also cleaned weekly, if not daily.
Wear a mask whilst you are cleaning as this will help to avoid breathing in any dust and dander.
Pet nutrition matters
Make sure that your pet is getting the proper nutrition that they need as this can help prevent non-seasonal shedding. Having dry skin or hair will make your pet’s dander even worse.
If your allergies stem from your cats, you are not alone! It is estimated that 6 million Americans today are allergic to cats and one third of these allergy sufferers actually have cats in their homes. Allergic reactions to cats can come in the form of an inflammation of a person’s nose and eyes to severe asthma attacks. Since more people are allergic to a cat’s saliva than to a cat’s fur, truly hypoallergenic cats are still being researched.
However, if you prefer to adopt a hypoallergenic pet you should first do an allergy trial in the breeder’s home. If this is not possible, ask the breeder to give you a blanket that the cat or dog has been lying on and take it home with you for a day or two to see if you have any kind of reaction.
Photo Credit: akaporn
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan