There are few things worse than waking up every morning with puffy watery eyes, a stuffed up nose, and itchy skin, but that’s the reality for allergy sufferers. 

For many, the root of their problem is the family cat or dog. That’s a tough fact to face when we think of those four-legged friends as part of the family. Suffering from allergies every day or removing the family pet from the home isn’t a choice anybody should have to make.

There are no easy answers to this issue, but there are some little known facts you probably aren’t aware of that can help. Here are 7 things you didn’t know about pet dander and pet allergies.

  1. Dander is a nice-sounding name for the dead skin that your cat or dog sheds on a regular basis. These tiny flakes quickly spread throughout the home and they are the source of your allergies in most cases. Sometimes we do mistake our pets as the root cause of our allergies though, so it’s important to be sure. 
  2. The allergens causing a reaction in the dander are actually proteins common in cats and dogs. Many people think it’s all the hair our pets shed that we’re allergic to. It’s actually nothing to do with the hair, the protein is in the dander, or skin flakes that our pets shed all of the time – the hair just happens to be full of this dander because of its contact with the animal’s skin.
  3. While these pet proteins should be harmless to us, in some people their immune system mistakes the dander for a foreign invader and attacks it in an attempt to protect the body from what it perceives as a threat. When the immune system try’s to expel the protein from your system it causes a reaction that results in the runny nose, swollen eyes and itchy skin allergy sufferers know so well.
  4. The allergens from pets are actually smaller than dust so they easily spread around the home and it doesn’t take much to disturb any concentration of dander that’s already in your home.  They’re hard to get rid of once they’ve been allowed to accumulate over time.

    That’s why a regular cleaning schedule is a must. You should clean bedding, furniture, carpets and curtains every week and any other surfaces that dander can cling to. Another good tool is a true HEPA filter air purifier that can remove most small particles from the air, including most allergens. Here’s an article that will help you find the best air purifiers for pets.
  5. All dogs and cats produce dander and all have the potential to cause a reaction in allergy sufferers. Even breeds that are considered a better choice for allergy sufferers or hypoallergenic are not free of the dander that causes our allergies. Smaller dogs are better because they have smaller bodies so they produce less dander.

    Some dogs also shed a lot more hair and produce more noticeable odors in the process, so look for a breed that sheds less frequently. If you want to know how to remove pet odors from your home we have a great article on getting rid of pet odors in your home.
  6. Exposing kids to pets at an early age may actually be a good thing for them in later life. Several studies have shown children exposed to animals in their first couple of years of life are less likely to have allergies down the road. That means they can adopt their own pet once they start their family without having to worry about pet-related allergies. Teaching small children to interact with pets safely can be a challenge, but it’s well worth the effort.
  7. More people are allergic to cats than dogs. You’re actually twice as likely to be allergic to a cat, so if you know that you have allergies it may be best to consider a dog as your next pet – apologies to the cat lovers out there. No matter what type of pet you have though, you can make changes that allow you to keep your pet and minimize your allergies.

    For one thing, when purchasing an air purifier make sure it has a true HEPA filter

What’s Next?

Now that you know a little more about pet dander and pet allergies you should be better prepared to make your home both pet-friendly and comfortable for allergy sufferers. There are no guarantees as long as there is a pet in your home, but understanding everything you can about the issue is a great place to start.