Pets and allergies
Pet allergens are one of the most common household asthma and/or allergy triggers.
Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, mice and rats can all trigger asthma and allergies in some people. But avoiding pet allergens can be difficult if the source is a much-loved furry family member.
As allergens are stuck to the hair and skin of pets, the allergens become airborne when the pet sheds their hair. The allergens can remain airborne for some time.
Cats and dogs are a major source of allergens in the home environment. The allergens come from the sweat glands in cats and salivary glands in dogs.
As all dogs and cats have dander and secretions, all breeds/types can potentially cause allergies. However, some animals may pose less of a risk than others because:
- Some breeds produce less allergen or shed less hair, which can reduce the spread of allergens.
- Smaller dogs generally produce less allergen than larger dogs, simply because they typically produce less saliva and have less skin.
- Short haired cats may pose less risk compared to long haired one
What you can do
The most effective way to reduce your exposure to pet allergens is to avoid those animals. While this can sometimes be a challenge, there are steps you can take to reduce how many allergens you come into contact with.
Tips for living with your family pet
- Always wash your hands after touching your pet
- Keep your pet outside most or all the time, making sure they have a safe, warm home outdoors
- Never let your pet into the bedroom
- After resettling your pet outside, clean the house thoroughly to remove sticky allergens left behind
- Vacuum carpets and upholstery regularly
- Ask someone else to groom your pet
- Do not wash your pet more than your vet recommends
Tips for visiting friends or relatives with pets
If you think you might be allergic to the pet of a friend or relative, try these steps when you visit:
- Ask your friend to keep their pets outside safely out of the way or in another room while you are there
- Remember to take your allergy medicine at least 30 minutes before visiting
- Bring your asthma reliever with you
- Always wash your hands after touching their pet
- Don’t touch your face before washing your hands
- Wash your clothing in hot water (above 55°c) to remove allergens after your visit
If symptoms persist
If allergic symptoms persist even after taking these steps, you can try gradually increasing the time the pet is kept outside, making sure they have a secure area with a safe, sheltered home.
The RSPCA can provide advice on appropriate environments for outdoor pets. It may still take some months before allergen levels are reduced, particularly if your pet is a cat.
Unfortunately in some cases where symptoms persist, it may be necessary to move your pet permanently outdoors or to consider re-homing the pet to another family. If you feel that you need to make this decision, please contact your local RSPCA for more advice.