Building Biology | Pets
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Pets

Pets

There are no ‘low allergy breeds’ of dogs or cats as it is the skin or saliva not the fur that allergy sufferers are likely to react to (ASCIA, 2010).

I grew up with boxer dogs… the best analogy I can give about this breed is that they closely resemble hyperactive children and consequently prepared me well for having a family! I could not imagine my childhood without a dog so I was interested to read about a recent Melbourne study of 5,000 infants that concluded that having older siblings and a pet dog that lives inside the home could reduce the likelihood of infants developing egg allergies (Koplin et al, 2012). This is in line with earlier studies demonstrating that exposure to pets within the first 12 months of life can reduce the incidence of allergies later in life (Ownby et al, 2002). This supports the Hygiene Hypothesis which states that a lack of early childhood exposure to microorganisms, parasites and infectious agents, increase’s ones susceptibility to automimmune disorders and allergic diseases. Once allergic however, exposure to known allergens such as dust, dustmite, pet dander, pollens and the like becomes a problem in susceptible individuals.

Most people with allergies to pets are not generally born with this allergy – on average it takes around two years to develop. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the fur that is the problem, but the skin flakes (dander), saliva and urine. As such, there are no “low allergy” breeds when it comes to dogs and cats (ASCIA, 2010). Pets that commonly cause allergies are horses, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and mice. Allergies to cats are twice as common as to dogs. Pets contribute significant amounts of dust, dander, pesticides, and micro-organisms into a home which will trigger allergies in sensitive individuals. Even after removing a pet from the home, the dander can remain on dust, carpets and furnishings and may take several months of good housekeeping to remove.

Around 15% of the population are allergic to animals.

Symptoms

The severity of the symptoms will depend on your sensitivity and may range from sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, asthma, cough, eczema and hives to an anaphylactic reaction requiring immediate hospital attention.

Testing

Go to your GP and get tested. This will involve a Skin Prick Test or Blood (RAST) Test to demonstrate the presence of antibodies to one or several allergens.

Solutions

  • Choose a low allergy pet – turtle, hermit crab, fish or reptile!
  • Do not allow pets inside the home
  • Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter and turbo head
  • Wash your hands every time you touch your pet
  • If you allow your pet indoors, keep them away from carpeted rooms
  • Ensure your pet sleeps on its own mat (not your bed)
  • Brush your pet at least weekly (outside) to remove excess hair and dander
  • As a last resort, you may need to consider getting an air filter fitted with a HEPA, UV and carbon filter