possible to be allergic and have a pet

After a serious asthma attack as a small child, an asthma specialist told my mother that I am allergic to pet dander and that we could never have a pet in the home. I also was supposed to stay away from houses where there were dogs and cats and on no account could I have contact with horses. My siblings were horrified, no puppies or kittens, no riding without changing clothes, showering and washing before re-entering the house but at least my allergies at home were now controlled.

Twenty years on I live in the country, on a farm. Because I am allergic to pet dander, my husband rides but like my siblings have to shower and change his clothes away from home. We do however have a dog and are about to get another. We have taken certain measures that mean that although I can’t get too close to the dog we are able to co-exist happily and my pet allergies are controllable.

  • Choice of Pet: It would seem that no breed of dog or cat is completely ‘non-allergic’ despite some claims that certain crosses can create a hypo-allergenic dog. Every dog sheds dander from its skin and it is this dander that is the cause of most allergy symptoms. However, there are certain breeds of dog that are less allergic to some people than others and if considering buying a new pet it may be worthwhile spending time with certain animals to see if one breed causes you to have a greater reaction than another.
  • If you are allergic to pet dander, you should keep your bedroom as a ‘safe zone’; and do not allow your pet in the room. Keep the carpets and curtains clean, use anti-allergy bedding. Keep any clothing that may have come into contact with your pet out of the room.
  • If possible, limit the number of rooms that your pet can be in and ideally these rooms should have non-carpeted floors that can be mopped and cleaned easily. In rooms with carpets make sure they are cleaned and vacuumed regularly with a high-efficiency allergy vacuum cleaner.
  • Wash your pet (or ideally ask someone else to) regularly. There are specialized allergy shampoos that cleanse away allergens. If your dog has hair that molts ask someone to brush its coat regularly outside to remove excess hair and prevent it molting in the house.
  • Wash your hands regularly after playing with your pet and make other family members do the same.
  • If a long time has been spent playing with your pet it may be a good idea to change and wash your clothes with allergy friendly laundry detergent as pet dander settles on clothes and can cause allergic reactions.

I know that for some allergy sufferers, sadly a pet around the house is not possible but by taking the steps outlined above it has allowed my husband to keep his beloved dog and for us all to live happily together.