Pet Dander Allergy

Allergy to a furry pet is a major risk factor for the development of asthma and is the one of the most common causes of allergy and asthma symptoms.  In fact for children, exposure to pet dander causes more asthma and allergy attacks than exposure to pollen. In Arizona, where the dry climate and use of central air conditioning most of the year eliminates the problem of house dust mites, allergy to a pet dog or cat is the number one cause of indoor allergy.
House dust mite

House Dust Mites are not a signifiant allergy problem in Arizona

Dander Everywhere
Dander is a microscopic, sticky substance that contains sloughed skin cells coated with dried oil and saliva.  It is very light, floats in the air, and sticks to everything: walls, ceilings, furniture and you.   An estimated 62% of americans have at least one household pet, and because dander is such sticky stuff, all this dander is carried around on pet owner’s clothes and belongings and are deposited everywhere they go. Studies have shown that significant levels of animal dander is found in schools, hospitals, day care centers, and other public places as well as in the homes of individuals who do not have pets.  The level of dander in public areas is high enough to cause significant asthma and rhinitis symptoms in anyone with a pet dander allergy.

Max is far too cute to cause allergy problems

I’m Not Allergic to MY Dog
I have always found it interesting that pet owners frequently do not recognize that their pet is the cause of their allergy or asthma problems.  Some of this may be denial or wishful thinking, but it may also be related to the fact that pet dander is so consistently present with pet owners, both in and out of the home, that is difficulty to identify the pet as the source of the problem.  In my experience, many pet allergic patients will acknowledge problems when around a neighbor’s pet, but are quite certain that they are not allergic to their own.
It is not uncommon for children who grew up in a home with a pet to go away to college and on returning to their home for the holidays, discover that they are now allergic to the cat or dog. It is likely that they were always allergic to the pet but did not recognize it as long as they were in constant contact living at home.
A Few Additional Facts About Pet Allergy
  • Hypoallergenic dogs or cats are a myth.  In fact, studies have shown that hypoallergenic breeds of dog may produce significantly MORE allergenic dander than conventional breeds.mythological-1
  • Most owners of hypoallergenic breeds BELIEVE their pet causes fewer problems.
  • Pet dander particles are large enough to be removed by conventional central air conditioning filters. HEPA filters are not needed. Because most of the airborne dander sticks to surfaces or is removed by central air conditioning filters, a small air purifier is unlikely to offer significant additional benefit.
  • If you have carpeting in the home most of the dander will collect in the carpet and can be difficult to remove.
  • If you have hard surface flooring more dander will suspended in the air, particularly when sweeping.
  • Damp mopping floors and wiping walls is the best way to clean dander from a room.
  • Some people have more allergy symptoms when the carpet is wet, such as after shampooing.
  • It can take 6 months to a year for dander in a home to lose it’s potency.
  • Cat urine can be very allergenic; having a litter box indoors increases allergen exposure significantly.
  • The most effective way to treat pet dander allergy is to remove the pet from the home.  Because this is frequently difficult or impossible, desensitization to the dander by allergy immunotherapy can be the most effective long term solution.