Coping with Human Allergies to Dogs and Cats

Many Americans who are allergic to cats or dogs have either or both of them as pets and continue to do so even after being advised by their doctor to give up their pets. Many people discover their allergies some time after they bring home their cat or dog and by this time they and their family members have developed an attachment to the pet. This is particularly true for children. The loss of a pet can be really traumatic for them. This shows that most people prefer to live with their allergies rather than give up a companion animal. The good news is that in many cases you can minimize the effect of the allergy by having a good understanding of the specific allergic conditions and making some adjustments and lifestyle changes.

Although few pet owners are more susceptible to dogs when compared to cats most people are more allergic to cats than dogs. However there are no non allergenic cats or dogs as most people believe. There are some hairless breeds which are being advertised as non allergenic but they can also be highly allergenic. This is because those who are allergic to the pets are not only affected by their hair. Individual allergic reactions vary from person to person and from breed to breed. Even dogs of the same breed may be allergenic to varying degrees. The main source of pet allergy in humans is the proteins called ‘allergens’ that are secreted form small glands in the pet’s skin and remain for sometime on the animal’s fur and then float around in the air.

Allergens are also present in the dog’s or cat’s urine or saliva which on getting dried up release allergens into the air. These allergens present in the air trigger allergic reactions on being inhaled or on coming in contact with the allergic individuals skin. The severity of the allergic reaction vary depending on individual susceptibility. They may be triggered in the form of mild sniffles to violent sneezing or asthma that may sometimes become life threatening. The allergic reactions may get aggravated due to the presence of other allergens in the air to which the individual is also susceptible.

It is possible to take some steps to reduce the effect of the allergens from cats and dogs provided it is not already life threatening to the individual family member who is allergic. It is very useful to create a allergy free zone inside the home preferably the bedroom of the person who is allergic. The pet should be kept away from this area. In this bedroom install a HEPA high efficiency air cleaner that is easily available in many stores selling household appliances. Try to use mostly impermeable upholstery and covers so that they do not accumulate the allergens brought indoors on cloths worn outside. Also use HEPA air cleaners in other rooms. In these other rooms don’t use upholstery, coverings and carpets that can accumulate dust and dander.

Regularly clean all items that can accumulate the allergens with the help of a vacuum cleaner in which a micro filter bag is fitted. The microfilter bag will catch the microscopic allergens so that they are not released back into the indoor air. Another important step to keep the home relatively allergen free is to bathe the pet once a week. Even cats can be trained to enjoy a bath. Ask your veterinarian for directions and a good shampoo. When an allergic reaction strikes you or a family member don’t promptly blame the dog or cat. The allergic reaction may be due to some other allergen in the atmosphere. Contact your allergist and request him or her for reaction to pet dander.

Allergic reactions are usually due to the cumulative effect of the many allergens present in the air including dust, pollen, cigarette smoke, pet dander and insecticides. Thus if your are susceptible to multiple allergens you will need to reduce or remove these and not only pet dander. The effect of pet allergy can also be reduced by immunotherapy treatment which aims at desensitizing the immune system of the sufferer to allergens from the pet animals. These will alleviate the persons allergic symptoms by reducing the intensity of the reactions. The treatment is done by injecting the pet allergens under the skin of the allergic individual so that his or her immune system produces antibodies that prevent the adverse reaction to the allergen. This treatment may take a few months to complete.

It is advisable to talk to an allergist who understands your desire to live with the pet even though you may be allergic to it. You will need to approach the problem from several angles. Regular house cleaning, immunological treatment and symptomatic treatment with antihistamines and steroids for symptoms of asthma and other allergic reactions are required.. Thus you have to use both medical and non medical approaches to enable you to live with your pet. However if you are planning to bring in a new pet home knowing that you are allergic to cats or dogs then you must be fully prepared to face the difficulties of doing so. It may not be easy to give up the pet later on and it can be very traumatic for the pet also.

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