Pet dander is a known asthma trigger. Although all types of animals may cause an allergic reaction, cat dander is one of the most potent triggers. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that between 15 and 30 percent of people with allergies are allergic to cats and dogs. However, it is important to note that pet dander is only one of many types of allergens. Other common asthma triggers are pollen, dust and mold spores. If you suffer from asthma, only your doctor or allergist can determine if pet dander is the cause of your asthma.
Asthma and its Symptoms
What is asthma? Asthma is a chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult. No cure for asthma is available, but symptoms and attacks can be prevented and treated. Asthma is one of the most common diseases, affecting one out of every four Americans.
Wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath are common symptoms of asthma. Other symptoms include:
- eczema or rashes
- tchy eyes
- runny nose
- scratchy throat.
Symptoms can be controlled with medication. Your doctor can help you recognize your unique symptoms and provide you with medication to prevent asthma symptoms from developing into full-blown attacks. Once you have identified your asthma triggers, avoiding them can prevent future attacks.
Animals and Asthma
Pet allergies, contrary to common belief, are not caused by an animal’s hair. Pet dander is a protein found in dead skin flakes, animal urine and saliva. Because it travels through the air, pet dander can easily become embedded in carpets, furniture and other areas throughout your home.
Cats and dogs are not the only animals that cause pet allergies and asthma. Horses, birds, rabbits, gerbils and other pets produce pet dander and can trigger asthma attacks. Hairless animals, such as snakes and lizards usually do not cause allergic reactions or other asthma attacks.
Removing a pet from a home may not immediately make symptoms go away. Pet dander can stay present for months after a pet is gone.
If you don’t own pets but still find yourself experiencing allergy and asthma symptoms, understand that asthma attacks can also be caused by a pest infestation from rodents or even cockroaches.
Asthma sufferers can have mild to severe asthma symptoms in the presence of animals. Symptoms may become apparent immediately or hours later, depending on the individual person and the amount of dander to which they are exposed.
Reducing Pet Dander in Your Home
Keeping pets clean and groomed can help control animal danders and reduce shedding. Anti-allergen and dander-reducing pet grooming products are available which may reduce your reaction to pet dander. If possible, have a non-allergic member of your household bathe and groom pets. If you have cats, have a non-allergic person change the litter box. If you live alone, wear a protective mask and gloves when washing your pet. Always wash your hands, arms and face after contact with animals.
Many products are available to reduce pet dander in your home, including HEPA air purifiers, vacuum cleaners and air vent filters. Other tips to decrease pet dander exposure include:
- installing wood, laminate or tile floors instead of carpet
- keeping pets off furniture by giving them their own bed
- removing cloth curtains
- using a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to remove airborne pet dander
- vacuuming frequently.
Types of Pets That Should Be Avoided
As mentioned above, cats cause the most serious allergic reactions for asthma sufferers. There is no proven relationship between the length of a pet’s hair and how much dander it produces. Many dog breeds, including poodle mixes, are believed to be “hypoallergenic,” and produce less pet dander. Because pets vary even in the same litter, you should always meet the animal and determine if you have an allergic before purchase or adoption.
Pets can often trigger asthma, so the best way to avoid this trigger is, sadly, to get rid of your pet. However, if you really cannot live without a furry pet, it is important to do everything you can to minimize your exposure to its dander.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). Pet dander. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Web site: http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9