Are You Allergic to Your Pet?

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If you suffer from pet allergies, you are not alone. It's estimated that as much as 15% of the population is allergic to household pets.

The tremendous benefits of animal companionship make it worthwhile to seek ways to live healthfully with your pet, so try these ways to control your pet allergies so that neither you nor your pet are climbing the walls. And make sure that your pet really is the source of your allergies. Some people mistakenly blame their pets when the real allergen is something else.

Reduce allergens in your home

  • Create an allergy-free area in your home, preferably your bedroom, and prohibit access to that area by your pet.
  • Improve the filtration capabilities of your vacuum cleaner with "microfilter" bags.
  • Consider replacing your carpet with tile, wood or vinyl flooring and using throw rugs that can be washed. Keep floors clean and vacuumed.
  • Encase your mattress and box spring in vinyl covers. Reduce upholstered furniture. Wash blankets, curtains, and pillows regularly.
  • Use a free-standing air purifier with a high quality HEPA filter to help eliminate allergens in the air.
  • Clean furnaces, ducts, and air conditioner filters often.

Tips for controlling your pet allergies

  • Wash your hands after handling your pet or after your cat licks you, as its saliva may carry allergens as well.
  • Wash your pet's blanket frequently.
  • Have a non-allergic family member bathe your pet weekly with an antiseborrheic shampoo to reduce the accumulation of skin dander and shedding hair.
  • Have a non-allergic family member brush your pet regularly and have your pet groomed often. It may help to keep the haircoat as short as possible. Short haircoats may have less dander and shed less.
  • Spray your pet daily with a humectant (moisturizer) to hold down the dander and shedding hair until it can be removed with bathing.
  • Between baths, wipe your pet with unscented baby wipes to help control dander.
  • Talk with your physician about allergy shots or medication approved for the treatment of pet allergies.
  • A vaccine for people allergic to cats is now being tested.

Published: March 17, 2009;    Updated: September 24, 2013

Filed Under: Seasonal Issues, Companion Animals, Cats, Dogs

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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