CVMA | Documents | How to Minimize Your Allergic Reaction to Pets

How to Minimize Your Allergic Reaction to Pets

October 23, 2012

Persons who have allergies to dogs or cats are actually allergic to the saliva, dander (i.e. shed skin) and the secretions from the hair glands of these animals. Dog and cat hairs by themselves do not cause allergies, but the allergens on the hair shafts do.

The severity of your allergic reaction depends on the amount of allergens you are exposed to.  This in turn depends on such variables as the size of the pet (i.e. a bigger dog means more shedding) and on how often you groom and wash your pet. By bathing pets frequently, allergens are washed off and this results in a decrease in symptoms in allergic owners.

The less hair and dander a pet produces (and sheds), the less likely a person with allergies is to react to that animal. For this reason, some breeds of dogs are thought to cause fewer allergic reactions. These include all three sizes of Poodles and Schnauzers, Kerry Blue, Soft-coated Wheaten and Bedlington Terriers, Bichon Frisé and Irish Water Spaniels. 

Some suggestions to minimize your allergic symptoms include the following:

  1. Restrict your pet, if not to the outdoors, then at least to a certain area of the house, and especially out of the bedroom. Cat dander can take up to 5 months to disappear after a cat is removed from a house. In fact, cat allergens have even been found in houses and schools in which cats have never been present (the cat allergens are carried in on people's clothing!). 
  2. Wash your pets every one to two weeks. Studies have shown this to be a highly effective way to reduce allergens on the pet's hair coat.
  3. Control house dust (especially in the bedroom) by removing carpets, reducing the amount of upholstered furniture, and washing materials that can readily trap animal dander (i.e. drapes, bedding, stuffed toys, etc.). Install a high efficiency electrostatic air filter.
  4. Polish and vacuum floors regularly and use a damp cloth or mop to wipe all surfaces and floors weekly. Certain solutions (e.g. 3% tannic acid) applied on carpets will destroy animal allergens without harming the carpet.
  5. In very sensitive individuals, allergy shots may help reduce the degree of allergic reactions to occasional unavoidable animal contact. 

Consult both your physician and veterinarian for advice if you suffer from pet allergies.