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I'm allergic to my pet. Does this mean I have to get rid of it?

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Updated August 28, 2011

Question: I'm allergic to my pet. Does this mean I have to get rid of it?
Answer: Not necessarily. Many people have pets in their home that they are allergic to. There are many effective ways to control allergy symptoms without having to part ways with your best friend. Avoidance techniques allow many people to keep their pets, even inside of the home.

It must be kept in mind, however, that as long as the pet is in the home, the allergic person will likely have at least some allergy symptoms (or at least require more allergy medication than if the pet wasn’t there). This may not be a big deal for people with a runny nose or itchy eyes, but could be very important for a person with severe asthma. Therefore, the decision to keep a pet, versus finding your furred friend a new home, is always an individualized decision based on the severity of allergy symptoms and how well those symptoms can be controlled with avoidance, medications and/or allergy shots.

The following is a list of avoidance techniques you can use to reduce exposure to pet allergens, and thus reduce symptoms and/or the requirement for allergy medications:

  • Ensure the pet is neutered (particularly for dogs and cats).
  • Bath the pet at least once or twice a week.
  • Wipe down the pet using a wet cloth or baby wipes daily.
  • Remove the pet from the bedroom; close the bedroom door and air vents leading to the bedroom.
  • Keep the pet outside, in the garage, or in a part of the home with an uncarpeted floor.
  • Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner.
  • Purchase a HEPA room air cleaner for use in the bedroom and/or other parts of the home (it is best to keep the HEPA filter off of the floor so as to not stir up more dust).

If the above measures do not help to reduce allergic symptoms, it may be time to say goodbye to your furry friend, particularly if you have uncontrolled asthma as a result of exposure to the pet. Pet allergen may persist for months to years in the home, even after the pet is gone. It is important to clean thoroughly:

  • Steam clean all carpets and upholstered furniture.
  • Launder or dry clean all bedding and curtains.
  • Vacuum all hard floors.
  • Wipe down all hard surfaces and furniture.
  • Replace any air conditioner and heater vent filters.

While some very allergic individuals, particularly those with asthma, won’t be able to keep their pet regardless of what they do, many people find that a few of these simple steps allow them to keep their best friend around. Just make sure you’re stocked up on allergy medication and Kleenex.

Want to keep learning? Find out more about cat allergy and dog allergy.

Sources:

Platts-Mills TAE, Vaughan JW, Carter MC, Woodfolk JA. The Role of Intervention in Established Allergy: Avoidance of Indoor Allergens in the Treatment of Chronic Allergic Disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000; 106:787-804.

Weber, RW. Dog Dander. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2007; 98:A4.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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