Being Allergic, Still Having a Pet?

By staff

As my children played with our golden retriever today, they glowingly told me how happy they are that we have a dog and that they were sad for families that didn’t have pets because animals are so much fun. We talked about some of their friends who are allergic to dogs or cats and that they really can’t have a pet because having one in the house would make them feel sick. My girls wondered if there was any way around that. Since I wasn’t really sure, I decided to research it a little and here is what I found.

Basically, it’s really not the animal itself that causes the allergies, but the dander which is constantly shed and collected not only on the animal, but also throughout the house. Though there are a few breeds of dogs and cats that don’t have as much dander, they are really not “allergy free,” but do cause fewer symptoms to those with allergies. If you want a dog or cat not of the hypoallergenic variety, here are a few tips to help you out:

• As with dust mites or other environmental allergies, the cleaner you keep your house, the better. Clean on a regular basis and empty your vacuum cleaner bag each time (HEPA vacuums are best). It’s best to have the person without the allergies do this. Make sure you get everywhere; where dust goes, dander goes.
• Choose hard wood, tile or laminate floors over carpet if possible. An immense amount of pet dander collects in carpet, and even with vacuuming, it’s hard to remove it all.
• Choose furniture that isn’t upholstered, like leather or wood as opposed to fabric covered. Having fewer pillows provides fewer places for dander to collect.
• Change your air filters regularly and have your ducts cleaned as well.
• Don’t let pets into the bedrooms of those with allergies. It’s not enough to keep them off the beds; their dander can get anywhere in a room. Having it in the bed is one of the worst places it can be. Just keep the doors shut so the rooms stay off-limits.
• Use cat litter that emits as little dust as possible. Deodorized cat litter can also cause allergies.
• Have your pet groomed regularly and feed them a healthy diet. It’s best to have them groomed somewhere off site, but outdoors is OK if somewhere else is not an option. Like vacuuming, it’s best to have someone not allergic do the grooming. Keep their hair brushed to prevent shedding. Short haired animals shed just as much as longer haired ones do, so be aware of that (I think our lab shed lots more than our golden does).
• Don’t forget about ways to rid yourself of allergies, including allergy shots, acupuncture, NAET. Many options exist with OTC and prescription meds as well.
• Make sure it’s the animal you’re allergic to and not something else. There may be other things that exacerbate your allergies, try to control those as well.

Exposure to animals in the first years of life has actually been shown to help out with other allergies later in life. Plus, they have many other great benefits! So before closing your doors to any animals with hair and sticking to the snakes and turtles, do a little research if it’s a dog or cat you’re wanting. It may be possible, and what fun you’ll all have!

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