What is Pet Dander?

What is pet dander

Families suffering from pet-related allergies well understand the problem of dander. Many people mistakenly believe it is dog or cat hair that triggers an allergic reaction in some pet lovers; however, it is not the hair that is to blame. Pet dander is the culprit. Pet dander is essentially small, dead skin cells that flake off an animal and shed into its home environment. It is these particles that are problematic to those with allergies to household pets.

What are Some Other Common Pet-Related Allergies?

There are a few other pet-related allergies people can suffer from. Though pet dander is the most common trigger for many people, others may react poorly when coming in contact with proteins commonly contained in such bodily fluids as saliva, feces, and urine. Most often, it is when any of these fluids dries and the protein particles become airborne that an allergic reaction is seen in human beings.

Which Animals Have Pet Dander?

Though dogs and cats are the most common family pets in the United States today, many animals have dander that can affect the inhabitants of a house. These include foxes, parrots, horses, small rodents, ferrets, and rabbits. Research shows that up to 27 percent of pet owners share their home with a cat. The percentage of pet loving homes that report owning a dog is slightly greater at 32 percent.

Interestingly enough, male cats are reportedly less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in owners with sensitivities to dander because they naturally make less of the Fel d I allergen than their female counterparts. Generally speaking, allergy sufferers are twice as likely to react to cat dander than that coming from a dog.

It is believed that animals with longer or thicker coats may harbor things within their hair that may also trigger allergic reactions in their owners. However, since all dogs and cats have fur, they are all equally responsible for any outside influences they bring into a home. Though many people claim otherwise, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat as all of these creatures have dander, and dander is the primary source of pet-related allergies in human beings.

What Cause Pet Allergy Flareups?

The allergens found in pet dander are tiny and weigh very little. Because of this, they easily remain in the environment once they become airborne, triggering allergic reactions in pet owners. Because pet allergens are so small in size and are irregular in shape, they easily become attached to such items as bedding, fabrics, and furniture. This makes dander quite easy to travel from room to room within a house and even outside the home to places such as schools and medical facilities.

Are There Long Term Effects for People Regularly Exposed to Pet Dander?

Some pet loving families have a poor immune system response to common pet allergens while others develop symptoms of pet-related asthma. For those who struggle with breathing properly in the presence of pet dander or other common pet allergens, their respiratory function can decline and the overall health of the lungs can be impacted. Since each person is an individual, it is impossible to define the amount of pet-related allergens in a home that it takes for someone’s health to be significantly impacted.

Among the recurring health problems people with allergies to pet dander and other common pet-related allergens may see are as follows:

  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Eczema
  • Rashes of the skin

How to Reduce Pet Allergens

What Can Be Done to Help Reduce Pet Allergens in a Home?

The ideal solution to assist families with allergies to pet dander and other common allergens is to help preserve the best possible indoor air quality. Unfortunately, the only way to permanently eliminate pet-related allergens from a household is to rehome the animal, something most pet owners are unwilling and unable to do. It is also important to note that because of the hardy nature of pet dander; even if a family were to place their beloved pet in another home, the particles contained in the dander will remain in the home environment for up to several months afterwards. This is true even in homes known for exceptionally thorough cleaning practices. As a result, allergies and asthma may continue for weeks and possibly even months prior to the dog or cat finding a new place to call home.

Thankfully, there are some things pet lovers can do to help reduce the amount of pet allergens in their home, allowing them to keep their beloved family pets and keep their allergies and asthma symptoms to a minimum. These include:

Regular brushing
Dry skin is one of the main problems that leads to dander. When the skin becomes dry, the cells easily slough off and become airborne in the home environment, triggering a reaction in allergy sufferers. Brushing a dog’s coat on a daily basis helps to release the natural oils found in the skin, keeping the skin hydrated and healthy.

Make use of a dander denaturing product
Today, there are several sprays on the market that can be applied topically to furniture and fabrics to eliminate the proteins commonly associated with allergic reactions and asthma related to pet dander. It is recommended that all carpets, fabric surfaces, and furniture be thoroughly vacuumed prior to the application of the denaturing spray. This process yields the best results.

Some denaturing cleaners are available in powder form as well.

Vacuum using a machine that utilizes HEPA filters
HEPA filters are designed to pick up the most hardy particles and to protect people from their effects. Pet lovers that suffer from pet related allergies should select a vacuum that requires HEPA filters, and that also requires a bag. Bagless models release vacuumed up particles back into the air each time the canister is emptied, thus defeating the purpose of trying to rid the environment of as many allergens as possible through vacuuming.

Use an air purifier
The use of an air purifier can help cleanse the home of some of the excess dander and pet allergens. For best results, it is recommended that homeowners purchase a unit that utilizes HEPA filters and a machine that is large enough for the room it is supposed to clean.

Limit the pet’s living area
Keeping dogs and cats to certain areas of the house is an effective way to prevent dander spread throughout the entire home. An area of particular importance that should be kept pet-free in homes with allergy sufferers is the bedroom. Pets should be kept off the bed, and if possible, should have their own space that is separate from its owners’ bedroom where they can enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Wash pet bedding and toys frequently
Keeping toys and bedding washed on a regular basis prevents dander and allergens associated with saliva from overtaking a home.

Struggling with pet dander and other pet-related allergens? You don’t have to rehome your beloved pet to get the relief you need. Consider some of our top tips to help reduce the allergens in your home today.

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