5 Ways To Control Allergies to Pets

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Allergic to pets? You’re not alone: Estimates generally put the number of people allergic to animals at 10 to 15 percent, with cats causing more misery to allergy sufferers than dogs. Many people opt to own pets anyway, enduring wheezing, sneezing, and scratching to be with their fur balls.

Obviously, people with severe allergies ought to think twice before risking their lives for love, but most people with mild to moderate allergies can tolerate life with pets by using a few proven tips for minimizing allergy triggers. Here, a veterinarian’s guide to living with both pets and allergies.

But First, the Myths

First, there’s no such thing as a cat or dog who doesn’t shed. They are all capable of producing allergens. However, allergy sufferers may more easily tolerate some breeds (Siberian cats, Poodles, and Poodle Mixes, primarily). But trendy (and expensive) hybrid dogs that are supposedly hypoallergenic? Allergists say the hype is mostly just that.

Even if there were a fur-free pet (even hairless dogs and cats shed a little), it wouldn’t matter, since it’s not the fur that’s the problem but the dander — tiny flakes of skin that end up everywhere a pet does.

Second, Chihuahuas don’t cure asthma, no matter what you read on the Internet. If you don’t trust me on this one, check one of the urban myth sites, such as Snopes.

The real trick to having a pet while also having allergies is to take your meds and keep the animal and your home clean. I’ve got five tips to get you started.

Get a Good Allergist

Many allergists lead with “Get rid of the pet.” But as a veterinarian and animal lover I know that rehoming a pet (or even putting a pet permanently outside) is the last thing most people want to do. That’s why I’m delighted to see that some allergists will now work with pet lovers who want to keep their pets. Find one of these medical professionals.

Chances are you’re allergic to more than animals, and the better you control all your allergies, the better you’ll feel overall. Be honest with your allergist that you have pets and plan to keep them. Many doctors are pet lovers themselves, of course, and realize the health benefits of animal companions. An allergist who’ll work with you to combat your allergies is worth her weight in gold.

Make the Bedroom a Pet-Free Zone

It wasn’t that long ago that the allergist who didn’t insist that you rehome your pet offered the “compromise” of putting your animal companion completely outdoors. That solution wasn’t acceptable to many pet lovers, so now the line is drawn at the bedroom door. I think that’s reasonable. If you can declare your bedroom a pet-free zone, you’re more likely to sleep well, which will make you healthier. You’ll spend a third of your life not sneezing and wheezing, and that may be enough.

But if you just can’t keep Binky out of the boudoir, at the very least keep her off the bed. There are many wonderful choices in pet beds these days, and your friend will be perfectly comfortable in one.

Invest in HEPA Filters

Much of what makes many allergy sufferers sneeze and wheeze can’t be seen. It’s the tiniest airborne specs of skin and other debris that land with allergy triggers intact on every surface. If you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, you won’t spread allergens around when you clean. Room-size HEPA filters in your home — or a whole-house one on your central heating/air conditioning unit — will help remove flying allergy triggers, too.

Bathe Your Pet Weekly

This is my favorite, because it benefits both you and your pet. A weekly — yes, weekly! — bath not only helps your allergies but your pet’s allergies, too. It also keeps him clean smelling and utterly huggable.

I know what you’re thinking: frequent bathing strips the coat of healthy oil. For years that’s what veterinarians said. New clinical studies now show the opposite: Weekly baths are good for pets. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a shampoo that’s right for your pet.

And that weekly wet-down applies not just to dogs but cats as well. If you start bathing your cat when he is a kitten, you’ll find that it’s easier when he gets older. And you don’t have to lather kitty: for cats, rinsing is enough.

Use Washable Throws and Pet Bedding

Airborne allergens end up in areas where pets relax. Weekly washing of pet bedding and the use of washable furniture throws (also washed weekly) will minimize allergen buildup so there’s less to sneeze at.

And even if you don’t have allergies, these strategies work to make living with your pet more pleasurable.

This article was written by a Veterinarian.

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