Contrary to popular belief, there are no (yes, zero) “hypoallergenic” breeds of dogs or cats. This is because people are not allergic to the hair of an animal, but rather to an allergen found in the saliva, dander (flakes of dead skin) or urine.
Pet dander — tiny flecks of skin that animals shed — is a common allergen found in dust. Even if you don’t have a pet of your own, people coming into your home could have pet dander on their clothing. When pet dander settles to surfaces in the home, it attracts other dust and dust mites, exacerbating the problem.
In households with birds the feathers and bird droppings can also become mixed in with household dust and cause problems for people who are allergic to them.
What Is Pet Dander?
Pet dander is composed of tiny, even microscopic, flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds and other animals with fur or feathers. These bits of skin can cause reactions in people who are specifically allergic to these triggers.
Additional allergy triggers or allergens come from sources other than the animal’s skin. Proteins found in saliva, urine and feces from cats, dogs and other pets can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Which Animals Pose the Biggest Problems?
Cats are kept as pets in 27 percent of homes in the United States and dogs are found in 32 percent. However, roughly twice as many people report allergies to cats when compared to dogs. Research also indicates that male cats produce less allergens than female cats, although the reason is not clear.
Animals with fur may be more likely to carry allergens from other sources, like dust, but the fur itself is generally not a trigger. For that reason, short-haired or hairless animals contribute dander and allergens to indoor air pollution just as effectively as long-haired animals do. There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat.
How Do Pet Allergens Occur?
Pet allergens are very light weight and small. They remain suspended in the air for a long time, much longer than allergens from cockroaches or dust mites. Because of their microscopic size and jagged shape, pet allergens easily stick to furniture, bedding, fabrics and many items carried into and out of the home. Animal dander is easily spread through the home and out to public places like schools and hospitals. 1 They can be found even in homes and buildings without pets.
How Do Pet Allergens Affect Health?
Some people are allergic to pets or have asthma that is triggered by pet allergens. For these individuals, breathing animal allergens can make respiratory symptoms worse and lead to a decline in the ability of the lungs to function. The concentrations of an allergen required to cause a reaction vary greatly by individual.
People with allergies may experience upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms including congestion, sneezing, runny nose, chest tightness and wheezing. Other symptoms are itching, watery eyes, and eczema or rashes.
How Do You Control Pet Allergens?
For homes with sensitive individuals, the best way to protect indoor air quality is to remove the animal from the home. However, pet allergens may stay in the home for months after the pet is gone because the allergens remain in house dust. Allergy and asthma symptoms may take weeks or even months to improve.
If the pet stays in the home, keep it out of the bedroom of anyone who has asthma or allergies. Do not allow the pet on furniture, especially upholstery, and keep the pet away from carpets. Clean the home often and do not allow dust to accumulate.
Do you have concerns about your own residence, school, or business? For more information, or to schedule a Mold Inspection, Lead-Based Paint Inspection, Radon or Asbestos Inspection in Santa Clarita, the Antelope Valley, Ventura County, or Greater Los Angeles area you can submit an online request, call us (661) 219-5160 or email request to [email protected]
About Mailman Environmental
Mailman Environmental is Southern California’s leading consultant for indoor air quality testing, asbestos, mold, lead, VOCs, formaldehyde, soot, char, ash, and smoke damage, particulates, and other chemicals. Mailman Environmental and our contractors and vendors maintain an extensive list of certifications and accreditations from the State of California, Department of Public Health, and numerous professional organizations. Mailman Environmental proudly serves all of Southern California including Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley including Palmdale and Lancaster, Ventura County, San Fernando Valley, and the Greater Los Angeles area.