Allergies and the Pet Owner

We all love our pets, but for some people allergies can lessen our enjoyment of our furry companions. About 1/5 of the US population is allergic to animals. If you find yourself allergic to your animal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get rid of your beloved pet. Let’s take a look at allergies and what to do to minimize allergens in your environment.

An allergen is a substance (usually a protein) that causes an allergic response. Pet dander is the usual culprit when we’re talking about allergies to animals. When an individual with allergies inhales an allergen, a variety of symptoms can result. These can range from itchy eyes to difficulty breathing depending on the individual. If you have allergies, you should seek professional help from a doctor who specializes in allergies. There are medications and immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual drops) that may be able to help you enjoy your pet while minimizing allergies.

Here are some ideas that can help keep allergens in your environment to a minimum:

1. Bathe your pet every week. Drop by for a recommendation on what shampoo you should use. Remember, you shouldn’t use human shampoos on your pets. Their skin is different from ours!

2. Keep your pet healthy. Certain illnesses (especially skin problems) can cause your pet to shed more – thus producing more dander. That’s another reason why it’s important to keep your pet on a flea and heartworm preventative as well as a good quality food.

3. Brush or comb your pet frequently. Here at My Zoo, we really like the Furminator for helping keep shedding to a minimum. Come by for a demonstration!

4. Keep one room “clean” so you have a refuge from allergens. This should probably be your bedroom.

5. Vacuum and dust frequently. We recommend using a vacuum with a HEPA filter so the allergens are effectively removed from the environment. Having your carpet regularly steam cleaned will also help. When dusting, remember to dust the walls too!

6. Change your air filter frequently. We recommend purchasing a high quality air filter for your home and changing it frequently. There are also stand alone air purifiers that can help remove allergens from the air.

7. Clean pet beds frequently. Many pet stores sell removable pet bed covers that can be washed. Another good option is using blankets that can be washed every week.

8. Clean the litter box frequently. For folks with allergies, a scent free, clumping litter is a good choice. If there is someone in your house that isn’t allergic, ask them to clean the litterbox. We also recommend wearing a dust mask. And remember, pregnant ladies – DO NOT CLEAN THE LITTER BOX if you are or even if you think you might be pregnant. In the next blog post, we will be talking more about toxoplasmosis. So stay tuned for more information!

9. Wash your hands! Wash your hands! Wash your hands! After playing or petting your pet or after cleaning the litter box, please be sure to wash your hands.

10. Find a good physician who is knowledgeable about allergies. Increased exposure to allergens over time can decrease allergic response to those allergies. So with time, these tips and help from your doctor, you can live a happy and healthy life with your pet…even if you are allergic!

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