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Animal Dander Allergy

What Are Animal Allergens?

Cats, dogs, horses and other mammals have proteins in their skin that can cause allergic symptoms. These allergenic proteins are present on tiny microscopic particles. Because of their very small size (much smaller than pollen grains or dust mite particles) they easily become airborne, and remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. Contact of these particles with the skin, eyes, nose or bronchial tubes can then provoke an allergic reaction.

It is not the hair of the animal, but rather the dander produced by the skin, that is the cause of the allergic reaction. There is therefore no truth to the common statement that a non-shedding pet is not allergenic. Even a non-shedding pet produces dander, so the sad truth is that there is no such thing as a non-allergenic breed of cat or dog. However, it is true that just as some individual humans have more dandruff than other humans, so do some individual cats or dogs produce more allergenic dander than other individual cats or dogs. Female and neutered male cats produce less dander than un-neutered males, but these amounts are still sufficient to provoke allergy symptoms.

Where Are Allergens Found?

Animal allergens are of course found mostly in homes where pets are present. What is surprising, however, is that these allergens are also found (in lesser amounts) in places where pets have never been present, such as schools, workplaces, and other public spaces. Dander allergens are sticky and is brought to these places on the clothing of pet owners. Dander on a smooth surface, such as a wall, can be easily wiped off, but dander in soft materials, such as carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture and clothing, can persist in that fabric for long periods of time.

Animal Dancer Avoidance

The best medical solution is the most emotionally difficult: finding a new home for the pet. Although this is a decision that only you and your family can make, the fact is that there is no other action that will as dramatically, effectively and safely eliminate the symptoms of pet allergy. If you are able to remove the pet, you can hasten the clearing of residual pet allergen by following some of the steps noted below.

In situations where you cannot or will not remove the pet, the following steps can decrease the level of exposure somewhat. Whether or not they will be sufficient to relieve symptoms will depend on the severity of the individual’s allergy.

What can be Done to Decrease Exposure to Animal Dander Allergens?

Start with the bedroom:

  • 1Keep the pet out of the patient’s bedroom at all times.
  • 2Encase the pillow, mattress and box spring in allergen-proof covers.
  • 3Wash all bedding including blankets repeatedly in hot water.

Clean your home:

  • 1Vacuum your carpet with a HEPA vacuum cleaner that traps allergens.
  • 2Confine the pet to a small area
  • 3Minimize direct contact with the pet
  • 3Wash the pet weekly to reduce airborne dander.

Control your air:

  • 1During warm weather, open windows to allow an exchange of air through the house.
  • 2With windows closed, HEPA air cleaners can remove significant amounts of animal allergen.

The following steps are of questionable benefit, and we cannot recommend them based on current information:

  • Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that certain breeds of dogs or cats are less allergenic than others. Non-shedding dogs possibly put less protein material into the environment.
  • Products claiming to remove cat or dog allergen from the skin of the pet are probably less effective than ordinary washing.