Allergies to your pets is a heartbreaking problem. I grew up with allergies to animals and I wanted to be a veterinarian. We had a dog, cats, and gerbils, and I loved horses. Allergies to indoor pets may not develop until months or even years after the first exposure. And by then these pets are family members. So if you are wondering if you have to get rid of your pets, my answer is always no. Try modification first.
Because you’ve been living with a pet or a house full of dust for a long time, the allergic reaction becomes chronic, ongoing, and continuous. Therefore you may not feel better even when you leave your house for the day. It may not be until you go on vacation for longer periods of time (more than 2 weeks) that you realize there is a problem. Or, upon returning, your symptoms begin again the moment you enter your home.
Most people think that they are allergic to the animal’s fur. Actually, what you are allergic to is its dander, the protein from its skin that flakes off like dandruff on human scalps. Cat dander is lighter than dust mites and is carried in the air for long periods of time. It can also attach to the clothes of people who have cats, who then carry this dander out of the home and into work or school. This dander hangs around long after people no longer have a cat. Recent studies suggest that as the exposure to cat allergen increases, you can develop immunity to it, and it will no longer affect you.
Dog dander is also lightweight, but not as lightweight as cat dander. It has been shown that all breeds of cats usually cause a similar reaction,
but in dogs, people can be sensitive to one breed but may not be sensitive to others. Some dogs also have hair instead of fur. Usually, dogs with hair can be tolerated, whereas dogs with fur cannot.
Horses (and their manure), gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other furry rodents are also sources of allergen. Urine is the source of allergen for small animals, so the cage should not be kept in the room of the sufferer. Our feathered friends are messy in that they molt, preen themselves and shake feather debris all over the place. The feathers and the dust are sources of the allergic response.
While you might not want to get rid of these pets, reducing exposure to them is the best way to help avoid these allergic reactions. Follow the same guidelines listed for perennial allergens, and add these steps to protect you from your pets:
1. Restrict the range of your pets. Keep them out of the bedroom and any other room where you may spend a lot of time.
2. Carpeting in rooms where your pet lives should be vacuumed weekly and cleaned regularly. Hardwood, linoleum, or tile floors are better choices for pets, anyway.
3. Your pet should have a bed of its own, which should be located away from the allergic person. Dog and cat cases and cages must be kept clean. Cat litter boxes should be cleaned regularly and should not be changed by the allergic person.
4. Keep your pets clean and well groomed. Your pet should be washed at least once a week. All the towels that are used for drying must be immediately washed in hot water and dried. The allergic person should not be the person who brushes the pet.
5. Weather permitting, you may want to keep the pet outdoors or on a porch. This works only if you never let the animal in the house, because if it makes daily visits, then the dander will be in the house anyway.
6. After playing with a cat, dog, or furry friend or riding a horse (or gardening with horse manure), take a shower to wash the dander
from your skin and hair. Make sure that you do this before going into your bedroom. Change and wash your clothes immediately and do not bring your clothes into your bedroom. Certainly do not lie on your bed with this clothing before taking a shower, otherwise you will have transported the dander to your bedding and then you will sleep in it.
Unfortunately, if those suggestions do not help or if the allergy triggers significant asthma, it may be necessary to find your pet a new home. Remember, that if you give up your pet, it still takes a very long time for the allergen levels in your home to drop. It can take months. Aggressive cleaning such as removing the carpet, cleaning draperies, and washing the walls will hasten the process.