If you’re one of the unfortunate dog or cat lovers who sneezes or wheezes whenever they get near one, you have our sympathy! We know how challenging allergies can be for an animal lover, so let us help. We’ve rounded up a few home remedies and some promising new research in pet allergies.
But first things first…
Are You Sure It’s Your Pet You’re Allergic To?
As an allergy sufferer, you know the symptoms. But do you know the cause? Contrary to what many people think, it’s not dog hair that causes allergic symptoms in humans. It’s a protein that’s found in pet hair, shed skin cells (dander), saliva and urine. But in some cases, it may be something else that your pet carries that’s causing the problem. You may be reacting to allergens that pets carry inside on their coats — namely grass, pollen or mold spores.
It may make sense to see an allergist. You might find that it’s not your pet that’s triggering your allergic symptoms.
OK, so there’s no getting around it — you’re allergic to your pet. Some allergy sufferers manage their symptoms well with over-the-counter medications like Benadryl and nasal spray. If they don’t work for you, here are a few other things you could try:
- Salt-water rinses/Neti pot. You can make a rinse for this by mixing 1/8 teaspoon salt into distilled water.
- Air conditioners and humidifiers.
- In the worst-case scenario, allergic pet lovers may have to resort to allergen immunotherapy, which can take six months to several years to be fully effective but can make pet adoption possible for those with the most severe allergies.
A lot of people swear by homeopathic remedies for allergy symptoms. Try some vitamin C or local honey, or visit your nearest health food store and ask about one or more of the following:
- Stinging nettle.
While many homeopathic remedies take time to build up in your system, you could try getting by with over-the-counter meds in the meantime.
Clean, clean, clean! We won’t kid you — there’s a lot of work involved in combating pet allergens at home, and you’ll never get 100 percent freedom from allergens with cleaning alone. But you may be able to maintain a tolerable level with at-least-weekly vacuuming of carpets, furniture, drapes, etc. If all else fails, consider removing carpeting and curtains from your home.
You will also need to bathe your dog frequently. As for cats, baths for this purpose don’t do much good (even if they’d allow it!). Cats reaccumulate the Fel d 1 (the protein that causes allergic reactions in humans) within 24 hours.
Time and Patience
Help for Feline Allergies
Did you know that cats are twice as likely to cause allergy symptoms as dogs? Up to one-third of Americans are allergic to cats, and cat allergies can be severe.
If you’ve tried all the antihistamines and home remedies out there with no relief to speak of, you’ll be interested to know that researchers are working on ways to treat the cat instead of the human.
Two recent studies have had success in reducing Fel d 1 production in cats. We’ve already told you about one, a vaccine for cats. The other is for a cat food that contains antibodies to Fel d 1. In both cases, more research is needed, but hope may be on the horizon for itchy, sneezy cat lovers.
You can read more about these studies at U.S. News and World Report.
Help for Canine Allergies
If you’re a dog allergy sufferer who would like to add a dog to your family, with a little luck, you may not have to wait as long for relief. It turns out that some people are not allergic to all dogs, but only to dogs that make a specific protein called Can f 5 in their prostates. This, of course, means only male dogs.
Thirty percent of individuals who have dog allergies are allergic to Can f 5, which is one of six known proteins that cause allergies to dogs. If you’re one of the lucky 30 percent, you may be able to tolerate a female dog, possibly even a neutered male. Worth a try, right?
The tips we offer here take time and commitment and probably won’t eliminate your allergy symptoms. But we know that for many animal lovers, living without them is unthinkable. We’re optimistic that with a combination of tactics, you can mitigate them to a level you can live with.