Contrary to popular belief, an animal companion being diagnosed with an allergy doesn’t mean saying goodbye to them. Too often do people turn down the chance to take in a beautiful aspin (asong Pinoy) or puspin (pusang Pinoy) in need of a home, all because their dander causes them to sneeze. It’s entirely posisble to live under the same roof as your animal companion, despite all the snuffles!

Pet allergies? Maybe it’s not to your pet!

It’s important to understand that you aren’t allergic to your fur babies themselves, so the solution isn’t to get rid of them. A pet allergy is an allergic reaction to allergy-triggering proteins in an animal’s saliva, urine, feces, fur, or skin (in the form of pet dander, which are microscopic pieces of dry skin). Because of their small size, pet allergies stay up in the air and are able to attach to fabrics and items that end up in places that don’t even allow pets, such as hospitals.

If you suspect you have a pet allergy, consult your doctor to find out what allergies you may be suffering from. It’s possible that a completely different allergen found its way onto your animal companion’s fur, triggering your allergies.

Someonw with a pet allergy could end up with a case of the sniffles, but more severe cases would involve asthma attacks, according to an article by Mayo Clinic. Allergies could even worsen in environments with plenty of cigarette smoke, mold, and pollen.

If you don’t have a severe pet allergy that could significantly affect your lungs, then there’s no need to fear keeping the animal companions you already have.

The myth of the hypoallergenic pet

The Mayo Clinic, an American non-profit medical organization, states that pet allergies can be triggered by any animal with fur. However, most people associate pet allergies with cats and dogs.

The American Lung Association says that there are fewer cats (27%) than dogs (32%) in US homes, but those with cats report experiencing more allergies than those with dogs. Cats produce a protein called Fel d1, while dogs produce proteins Cand f1 and Can f2. Although cats produce at least seven allergens, Fel d1 is the usual cause of pet allergies.

The truth of the matter is that any animal, whether long-haired or hairless, can trigger allergens. Dr. Kerry Hancock of the National Asthma Council in Australia says, “The allergen is the same across all cat breeds.”

At the same time, dogs touted as hypoallergenic are never 100% hypoallergenic. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in an article by PETA, “Even hairless dogs produce some allergens.”

Keeping it under control

Assuming that your allergies are mild, there are several methods to explore to prevent your allergies from acting up.

1. Rethink your home decor

Keep furniture that is easy to clean, and consider not using carpets because they trap allergens. The fewer objects you have lying around the house, the less you’ll have to clean.

2. Bathe your animal companion regularly

Vacuum at least weekly and don’t forget to wash items such as curtains and couch covers. Bathing your pet often will also clear them of the allergens that affect you, at least for a while.

3. Consult your doctor

Medical treatments, such as allergen immunotherapy and antihisthamine pills, can help with your condition, but turn to them only after consulting your physician.

4. Ask for help

If you’re able, ask someone who doesn’t suffer from allergies to handle tasks that might give you an attack. Litter boxes and pet beds store lots of dander, so you might need someone’s help to clean them, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

5. Consider the bed off-limits to animals

The allergens animals carry can stick to your pillows and covers, and keep you up all night. Some people resort to keeping their fur babies out of their bedrooms altogether. Whatever you choose to do, do not keep your animal companion chained outdoors.

Responsibility: Nothing to sneeze at

Though well-meaning friends and family might advise you to rehome your furry friend because of your allergies, your relationship with your pet is special and irreplaceable. Treasure that bond; don’t throw it away.

On the other hand, if your allergies are keeping you from adopting a pet, remember that allergies can be overcome. Welcoming a new life into your home is priceless, and they will surely appreciate all the love you give them, despite the snot and sneezes that come with it.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s November-December 2020 issue.

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