If you or other family members have allergies and you're thinking about getting a pet, it's important to consider all possible consequences – especially if someone in the household has an extreme or intolerable allergic condition.
You don't want to commit to a new furry family member only to discover you can't be in the same house with your pet thanks to a severe allergy. If you're on the fence about whether or not to get a pet, why not foster a dog or cat first to see how things go?
It's not a good idea to bring a new forever pet into a family with allergies and hope for the best. Children sometimes outgrow certain sensitivities, but for most allergy sufferers, the condition is permanent and won't improve with time or continued exposure to a pet.
In my experience, I've found the vast majority of pet owners who are allergic to their animals find ways to manage that don't involve giving up their beloved dog or cat.
It seems the benefits of pet ownership simply outweigh the drawbacks of allergies for most people who share their lives with a dog, cat or other four-legged or feathered family member.
It Isn't Fur That Triggers a Sneezing Fit
Many allergy sufferers don't realize it's not the fur or hair on their pet that's the problem. Flakes of skin called dander are what cause most allergic responses. Even if your cat or dog is bald, you can still be allergic.
You might also be allergic to your pet's saliva, either on the animal's fur or when it comes in direct contact with your skin. Pet urine can also be a problem.
Many people are allergic to a specific protein called FEL-d1 found in cat dander and saliva.
Allergies to cats are more common than allergies to dogs.
Research into the hygiene hypothesis – the idea that we can be too clean for our own good and underexpose our immune system to common microbes in the environment – is returning very compelling evidence that proves children exposed to animals before their immune systems are fully developed at around age two do not go on to develop allergies.
Steps to Minimize Pet Allergies
- Create a pet-free area in your home, which will probably be the bedroom of your allergic family member. Do not allow the pet(s) access to the designated pet-free area under any circumstances.
- Purchase an air purifier for your home. Depending on the type you buy, they really do help clean the air of allergens and pollutants.
- Remove carpeting, drapes and other fabric that traps animal dander. Tile or wood floors are much easier to clean of allergens.
- Clean your home frequently and thoroughly, including any surfaces that trap pet hair and dander like couch covers, pillows and pet beds. This will also help control other allergens in your home that could be contributing to the allergic load of family members.
- Wash bedding frequently in hot water.
- Bathe your pet often. Even kitties can be bathed regularly, but take special care to use only safe, non-drying herbal animal shampoos. Whatever you do, avoid using people shampoo on your dog or cat, and skip any shampoo containing oatmeal.
- If your pet rides in the car with you, consider using washable seat covers.
- Family members should wash their hands after playing with a pet, and if children roll around on the floor or grass with their animals, they should bathe or shower and shampoo before bed so they don't transfer pet allergens onto their pj's and bedding.
- Make sure you and your family members are eating for your individual nutritional types. Allergy symptoms often show dramatic improvement when an appropriate eating plan is followed.
- Consider taking a probiotic supplement daily. Healthy gut bacteria is important for proper immune system function, and research indicates doses of good bacteria help to train the immune systems of infants to resist childhood allergies.
- Allow kids to be kids. Let your children play outside and get dirty. Don't use antibacterial soaps. Simple soap and water is fine.
- Feed your pet an 'anti-inflammatory' (otherwise known as species-appropriate) diet. By reducing allergenic foods going into your pet you can reduce allergenic saliva coming out of your pet.
- Make sure your pet's essential fatty acid requirements are met. By assuring your pet has optimal levels of EFA's in their diet you can dramatically reduce shedding and dander associated with EFA deficiency.
Reducing the allergen load in your home and minimizing allergic reactions to your pets, will help every member of the family -- those on two legs and those on four -- live more comfortably together.
Breeds Considered to Be Allergy-Friendly
Selecting a breed of dog known to trigger fewer symptoms in people with animal allergies may be a good idea for some families.
There are no widely agreed-upon allergy-friendly cat breeds.
Non-shedding dog breeds include:
|Dandie Dinmont Terrier||Portuguese Water Dog|
|Irish Water Spaniel||Yorkshire Terrier|