Allergic to My Pet

If You're Allergic to Your Pet Do You Need to Get Rid of It?

Small and cute kitten on little girl shoulder
Can you keep your pet if you are allergic to it?. Alfos/istockphoto

I'm allergic to my pet. Does this mean I have to get rid of my cat or dog? If I want to keep my pet, is there anything I can do to reduce my symptoms?

An Allergy to Your Pet - What Does This Mean?

If you learn that you are allergic to your pet you're likely feeling anxious and disappointed. Will you have to get rid of your pet?

Sometimes people do have to give up their pets due to allergies, but you may be relieved to hear that there are many effective methods of controlling allergy symptoms without having to part ways with your best friend.

Many people are able to keep pets in their homes that they are allergic to, though it can take some effort to make things work. Avoidance techniques allow many people to keep their pets, even inside of the home.

Keeping Your Pet with Allergies - Being Realistic

If you decide to keep your pet, it's important to understand that whoever is allergic to the pet will likely continue to have at least some allergy symptoms (or at least require more allergy medication than if the pet wasn't there.)

The particular allergy symptoms you have may determine whether this is truly realistic or not. If your have only a runny nose or itchy eyes, this may not be a big deal, but it could be a large problem for someone who has severe asthma related to pet dander.

(Severe asthma, in fact, may be one reason why a person may be unable to keep their pet. The most common allergens responsible for severe asthma include molds, pet dander, cockroaches, and ragweed.)

For this reason, as well as many more, there isn't a broad yes or no answer to keeping a pet if you have allergies. Rather, it is always an individualized decision based on the severity of allergy symptoms, and how well those symptoms can be controlled with avoidance, medications, and/or allergy shots.

Avoidance Techniques to Reduce Exposure to Pet Allergens

The following is a list of avoidance techniques you can use to reduce exposure to pet allergens (animal dander), and thus reduce symptoms and/or the requirement for allergy medications:

  • Ensure the pet is neutered (particularly for dogs and cats). Neutering male dogs and cats reduces their allergen production.
  • Bath the pet at least once or twice a week. A word of caution is in order with this recommendation. Some pets, especially cats, carry a strong dislike to baths, and caution is needed to avoid bites and scratches.
  • Wipe down the pet using a wet cloth or baby wipes daily.
  • Remove the pet from the bedroom; close the bedroom door and air vents leading to the bedroom.
  • Keep the pet outside, in the garage, or in a part of the home with an uncarpeted floor. This can depend on the climate in your area, and it's important to consider whether this is fair to your pet as well.
  • Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner.
  • Purchase a HEPA room air cleaner for use in the bedroom and/or other parts of the home (it is best to keep the HEPA filter off of the floor so as to not stir up more dust).

Cleaning Your Home to Remove Animal Dander, Even After a Pet is Gone

If the above measures do not help to reduce allergic symptoms, it may be time to say goodbye to your furry friend, particularly if you have uncontrolled asthma as a result of exposure to the pet.

Pet allergen may persist for months to years in the home, even after the pet is gone. It is important to clean thoroughly:

  • Steam clean all carpets and upholstered furniture.
  • Launder or dry clean all bedding and curtains.
  • Vacuum all hard floors.
  • Wipe down all hard surfaces and furniture.
  • Replace any air conditioner and heater vent filters.
  • Consider having your vents cleaned (at the same time make sure to have your dryer vent cleaned. This has nothing to do with pets, but is a significant cause of home fires, and dryer vents tend to collect more lint when there is an animal in the home.)

Bottom Line on Having a Pet with Allergies

While some very allergic individuals, particularly those with asthma, won’t be able to keep their pet regardless of what they do, many people find that a few of these simple steps allow them to keep their best friend around.

Just make sure you’re stocked up on allergy medication and Kleenex.

Take some time to learn more about cat allergy and dog allergy.

Sources:

Apfelbacher, C., Frew, E., Xiang, A., Apfel, A., and H. Smith. Assessment of Pet Exposure by a Self-Report in Epidemiological Studies of Allergy and Asthma: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Asthma. 2016. 53(4):363-73.

Lombardi, C., Savi, E., Ridolo, E., Passalacqua, G., and G. Canonica. Is Allergic Sensitization Relevant in Severe Asthma? Which Allergens May Be Culprit?. World Allergy Organization Journal. 2017. 10(1):2.

Continue Reading