News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 22, 2008

Paw Prints: Bathing pet weekly can cut allergens by 84 percent

By Niki Laviolette/Terre Haute Humane Society

Pets are wonderful companions, but for some, having a pet is next to impossible because of allergies. According to studies, 15 percent of the population is allergic to either cats or dogs (or both). Even though one-third of Americans (approx. 2 million people) are allergic to cats, they have at least one in their home anyway. Most people believe the benefits of owning a pet outweigh the difficulties of allergies.

There are no “non-allergic” breeds of cats or dogs. Even the hairless breeds can cause allergies to flare up. A poodle or Bichon Frise can cause fewer allergy problems than some other type of dog breeds due to their soft and continual growing fur. Any dog or cat of a particular breed can cause more or less allergy suffering than another from that same breed.

The source of the allergy problem is in the glands of the animal’s skin which secrete allergens. The allergens are present in the animal’s saliva and can become airborne from drying on the fur. The severity can vary from person to person and can range from sniffling or sneezing to asthma. If the allergies are not life-threatening, there are steps that can be taken to help make living with a pet more bearable. For instance, have an area in your home that is allergy-free, such as the bedroom.

Do not allow your pets in this area. Use impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows.

Using a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner throughout your home can help.

Avoid dust-collecting furnishings, fabric draperies and carpets. Clean thoroughly and frequently. Wash sofa covers, pillows, curtains, and pet beds. Use a microfilter bag in the vacuum cleaner to help catch the allergens.

You can reduce the allergens on your pet 84 percent by bathing your pet weekly.

Products sprayed on your pet to help reduce allergens are not as effective as bathing.

You shouldn’t assume it’s your pet’s fault if you have allergies. See an allergist to be specifically tested for pet dander. Allergy sufferers are usually sensitive to more than one allergen and not to just pets.

You will need to address the causes of the total allergens in your living area and not to just pet allergens. Allergy shots can improve but not eliminate the allergy symptoms.

Other treatments for pet allergies include steroidal and antihistamine nose sprays or pills. In order for an allergic person to be able to successfully live with a pet, it usually requires a combination of behavioral changes, medication for symptoms, good housecleaning, and allergy shots. With children, sometimes the allergy is outgrown, but few adult allergy sufferers become accustomed to the pet that they are allergic to.