Vet Help: How to Reduce Allergens on Your Dog?
What can be done to reduce the number of allergens on a dog and in a house? It's the question in this week's "Ask the Vet."
Every other week, Dr. Patrick Tate, chief of the veterinary staff and a general practitioner at Webster Groves Animal Hospital, answers reader questions about pets. This week's question is from Deanna Dickson.
Question: What can be done to reduce the number of allergens on a dog and in a house?
Answer: There are many things you can do to both your dog and living space that help reduce allergens. In fact, I would recommend these techniques for anyone that owns a “furry” animal, whether they have pet allergies or not. It is healthier for pet owners to live in a house with less allergen–filled dander, and visitors certainly appreciate it! Pets also benefit from the extra attention to their coats and skin.
These techniques work well with any type of dog breed– whether hypoallergenic or high-shedding. As I said in a previous Ask the Vet column, there is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog. Even low shedding and hairless dogs produce allergens (mainly from their dried saliva) that are carried into the air by dander. The sticky, invisible dander particles stay suspended in the air for hours, spreading throughout the home and into a pet owner’s nasal passages. They eventually settle on household surfaces where they can linger for years.
Note: Cats (and most other furry animals) are very similar in the way their allergens are spread. Most of the suggestions below can help reduce or control their dander also. See next week’s Ask the Vet answer for details about why cats cause allergic reactions in humans more than any other animal!
Below are a few tips to help reduce pet allergens and, hopefully, allergic reactions.There are many people (including my wife, sister, and niece!) with severe pet allergies that are able to enjoy living with animals. While a few of the methods below may be time-consuming and/or costly, most pet owners would agree it is well-worth extra the effort and expense.
For more in-depth advice please consult your veterinarian and/or human allergist. The Avoid Nasal Allergies website also contains some very helpful information about human pet allergies. Their mission statement contains the wise words from Ben Franklin - "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
To help reduce allergens on your dog:
- Bathe your pet frequently with a good pet shampoo that supports healthy skin. If a dog’s skin is dry or irritated there is more sloughing of dead skin cells (dander). I often recommend Allergroom and Epi-Soothe by Virbac Animal Health people have found special "allergen neutralizing" shampoos like Allersearch Pet Shampoo to be helpful. Do not use human shampoos or conditioners on pets – they are usually too acidic and contain irritating additives.
- Brush your pet frequently to remove loose dander and hair that hold allergens. Always do the brushing outside and wear a face mask. If you are allergic. Furminator deshedding tools and products are invaluable aids and well-worth the price.
- If you have a low-shedding, hypo-allergenic dog with hair that grows long, make frequent visits to the groomer and keep the dog’s coat in a short cut. Even though the hair/fur itself is not an allergen, longer fur can trap a variety of allergens from the pet and the environment, including dander, dried saliva, mold, pollen and dust.
- If you have a dog (or cat) that sheds hair and dander frequently and are not able to do the grooming yourself, take your pet to a professional groomer. Kennelwood offers special SHED- X treatments at a reduced rate for frequent “club” customers. Other groomers have similar treatments and plans.
- Between baths, rub the coat of your pet with a cloth moistened with water or an allergen neutralizing solution like Allerpet D (for dogs) or Allerpet C (for cats).
- Feed your pet a high-quality food, rich in skin-supporting oils with the correct balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Animals with healthy skin shed less dander. Talk with your veterinarian about what food would be best for your pet. I frequently recommend Hill’s Science Diet to my clients and feed Hill’s Adult Sensitive Skin food to some of my dogs.
To help reduce allergens in your house:
- Designate some pet-free rooms – especially the bedroom. As much as you may love to sleep with your pet, if you have pet allergies it can be especially harmful to breathe allergen-filled dander during the night.
- Designate some pet-free furniture - or cover couches, chairs, and beds with “throws” that can be easily washed. Use a special laundry detergent like Allersearch Anti-Allergen Wash that is designed to destroy most allergens. Leather or vinyl furniture is easier to keep allergen-free.
- Wash your pet’s bed and toys frequently. Choose beds that are designed so boththe cover and pad can be easily washed and dried. West Paw Design offers a variety of pet beds that can be washed in a regular washing machine. If you purchase a pet bed from a store, make sure it is completely washable - or at least has a removable cover that can be laundered.
- Vacuum frequently with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting) vacuum that can effectively retain and store tiny allergens like dander. Don't forget to vacuum walls, ceilings, furniture, blinds, curtains - and even your pet!
- Dust frequently using a special spray like AllerDust that attracts allergens on the dust cloth. Never dust with a dry cloth or you can stir up the dander.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting (if possible) where allergens can hide. Tile, wood, and linoleum can be wiped clean of allergens, but carpeting cannot. Use throw rugs that can be washed or taken outside to air.
- Try installing special electrostatic air conditioning and furnace filters and/or use an air purifier like Austin's "Pet Machine."
To reduce allergens on yourself:
- Avoid touching your face or eyes after petting or playing with your pet. Wash hands thoroughly along with any skin that has been exposed to an animal’s saliva.
- Wear special “pet clothes” while holding or playing with your pet. When finished, wash the clothes with an allergen-neutralizing laundry detergent like AllerTech that works well even in cold water.
- When playing with your dog, try to stay outside as much as possible so when allergen-filled dander is stirred up it will not be released into the house.
- See a doctor that specializes in and/or thoroughly understands human pet allergies.