Tips on Dealing with Allergies to Cats and Dogs
Pets commonly lose their homes due to a family member’s dog or cat allergies. Human allergies to animals are commonly a result of the dander from the animal’s skin and coat, as well as the animal’s saliva or urine. Below are some ways to help reduce your allergies to your pet. We advise consulting your veterinarian before adding items to an animal’s diet.
The first step in addressing your allergies is being diagnosed. It is important to be tested by a doctor to determine which allergies you actually have. For example, you may assume that you are allergic to your beloved dog, only to find out through an allergy test that you're actually allergic to a specific tree pollen that got on his fur during a walk together. Some cat owners learn that they are actually having an allergic reaction to the type of cat litter. Don't be too quick to blame the pet for allergies.
If you are allergic to your pet and your reactions aren’t life-threatening, there are many ways to reduce indoor allergens and allergy symptoms so you and your pet can live together more comfortably. Many allergy sufferers are sensitive to more than one allergen, so you’ll want to reduce the overall allergen level in your environment by concentrating on all of the causes, not just the pet allergy.
Note that the majority of these suggestions are not a “quick fix.” Be patient and allow time to pass before expecting a major change. Sometimes it can take several months before you’ll start to notice the difference in your allergies.
Create an "allergy free" zone in your home — preferably the allergic person's bedroom — and strictly prohibit the pet's access to it. Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner and consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows.
Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of the home and avoid dust-and-dander-catching furnishings, such as cloth curtains, blinds and carpeted floors. Installing a high quality air filter can make a huge difference for anyone suffering from allergies. Air filters work by drawing in the air and forcing it through one or more filters to help remove dust and other allergens. HEPA filters in particular are made specifically to reduce allergens in the air.
Your pet’s diet is a very important factor in reducing your pet’s dander and the amount of allergen. Simply put: the healthier your pet eats, the healthier he or she will be in all aspects of life. A healthy, quality diet will help your pet have a healthier skin and coat, in turn, producing less dander. Feeding a high quality diet -- with real meat as the first ingredient and the first five ingredients as “real food” -- is very important. Adding canned or wet food to your pet’s diet can also help further reduce dander and allergens.
Good hydration is very important for all animals. Not only does it keep their bladders and kidneys healthier, but a well-hydrated pet is less likely to have skin and coat issues. Feeding wet food daily is a big part of helping your pet stay well hydrated, especially for cats who are not known as big water drinkers. Another great way to help pets stay hydrated is to provide them with a water fountain. Moving water is more enticing to animals than stagnant water.
Apple Cider Vinegar Treatments
Mix 50/50 apple cider vinegar with water, dip a brush or comb in it, then groom your pet. Topically, apple cider vinegar it will help improve their skin and coat, reducing dander and allergens. (Please note that pets with kidney issues or difficulty processing acids should not ingest apple cider vinegar.) For more information, visit PetMD.
Coconut Oil Supplements
Adding small amounts of coconut oil to your pet’s food will help improve her skin and coat as well. It can also be applied topically, but it usually leaves the pet’s coat looking oily. Note that not all oils are equal and experts recommend using organic, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil. Read up for more information on adding coconut oil to a cat’s or dog’s diet and remember to check with your veterinarian.
Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil is probably the most common supplement added to the pet diet. Growing numbers of studies confirm that the anti-inflammatory effect of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil has a beneficial effect in treating a host of abnormalities in pets, including improved skin and coat health, which reduces dry skin and dander. The National Research Council has established a safe upper limit of EPA and DHA for dogs. It has yet to establish one for cats. In light of that, experts state that it is probably safe to use the guidelines for dogs for both species. A dose between 20-55mg combined EPA and DHA per pound of body weight is safe for dogs and cats. Consult with your veterinarian before making a drastic change to your pet’s diet.
Clean, Clean, Clean!
Most people underestimate how much of a difference a pet’s daily grooming and a thorough house sweeping can make when dealing with allergies. Keep the surfaces and floors as fur-free as possible, and the reactions to the pet’s allergens should also diminish. Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander, washing articles, such as couch covers, pillows, curtains and pet beds. Floors and carpets can especially be a haven for the pet’s hair and dander, so vacuum them often and take the rugs out for a cleaning -- preferably more than once every spring.
Routinely brushing the pet’s coat will reduce the amount of fur and dander by capturing the dead fur before it can leave the animal and float through the air. We recommend brushing dogs outside to reduce indoor air contamination and, if possible, having someone who does not have pet allergies do the brushing.
Bathe your pet on a weekly basis to reduce the level of allergy-causing dander. Cats can get used to being bathed, but it's critical to only use products labeled for them, and kittens will need a shampoo safe for kittens. Check with your veterinarian's staff or a good book on pet care for directions about safe bathing. It's a good idea to use a shampoo recommended by your veterinarian or other animal care professional. This suggestion can be a last resort, as frequent bathing can further dry out a pet’s skin, causing them to be itchy and uncomfortable.
As a pet owner, you may wish to pursue additional treatments for allergies to pets include immunotherapy (allergy shots), steroidal and antihistamine nose sprays, and antihistamine pills. It is important to find an allergist who understands your commitment to living with your pet. A combination of approaches — medical control of symptoms, good house-cleaning methods and immunotherapy — is most likely to succeed in allowing an allergic person to live with pets.
Every animal is different, so you may need to try multiple solutions until you find what works for you and for your pet. Be patient and be glad you didn't let allergies break up a beautiful relationship. It is worth it to preserve the bond between you and your pet by checking if you are truly allergic to your pet and, if you are, to try these solutions. Join the large number of animal lovers who manage their allergies and live happily and healthily with their beloved pets.