Pet Alternatives for People with Animal Allergies
I grew up with horrible allergies, not knowing they were allergies at all really. I just assumed having itchy, watery eyes and an itchy, running nose, on a daily basis was normal! Can you imagine?! I never dreamed it had anything to do with growing up in a house with 1-3 indoor dogs living in it at any given time. Nor did I have any clue why I developed small hives every time the love of my life (before I met my husband and had my children of course), a beautiful Golden Retriever named Beau, gave me a friendly kiss. He was my boy and we were two peas in a pod. How I miss that happy-go-luck guy, always wagging his tail, and always CRAZY-EXCITED to see me. It wasn’t until years later, after living away at the University and starting my own life in my first apartment, when I adopted a dog, did I realize that I had been free of that darned itchy nose and watery eyes. When I brought the dog home, all my symptoms came roaring back. That’s when I realized I had allergies to dogs. I suffered for so many years, not realizing and probably not even thinking to tell my parents about my symptoms.
I beg you, please don’t let yourself suffer and certainly don’t let your kids suffer. Talk to them. Pay attention to their symptoms. Symptoms can be as common as a runny nose, but could include asthma, eczema, and a host of other allergic reactions. Consider it may be a pet allergy or perhaps it’s something else. Just don’t give up and try to get to the bottom of it. If you do have a pet or are considering getting one, I think you’ll find this post very helpful as there are options out there for those with pet allergies.
Alternatives for People with Animal Allergies
By Sebastian Paulin (see bio below)
Animal allergies do not mean that you will have to live your life without pets. Living with pets can be very rewarding and fulfilling, having an allergy should not mean that you will have to miss out on this. Planning and careful choices will make all the difference.
If you think you’re allergic to your pet, but haven’t been tested, consider taking the tests. However do be aware these tests are not 100% accurate. Another option is to give the suspected animal to a friend’s house for a couple of days, do a very thorough house cleaning, then monitor your (or your families) bodily reactions. Your pet might not be the culprit at all. You could be reacting to something else in your house, such as dust mites, bed mites, the padding on your rug, particular food consumption just to name a few. When trying to find the reason behind an allergic reaction it can often feel like finding a needle in a haystack so be patient. The process of elimination can be painful with plenty of testing and trialing however you once you have found the reason for the outbreak life will be a lot easier, so do keep going.
Choosing a pet if you do have animal allergies
Knowing you have a pet allergy before you bring home a pet is the ideal situation. You can plan and choose accordingly. Allergic to dogs? Adopt a cat or a bird, instead of a terrier. Shellfish allergies? That rules out hermit crabs, but Guinea pigs are possible.
Dander and feather dust
The common culprits in pet allergies are dander and feather dust. Merriam-Webster defines dander as “dandruff; specifically: minute scales from hair, feathers, or skin that may be allergenic.” In many animals this can be controlled by careful bathing and frequent laundering of the pet’s bedding. For mild allergies, this is entirely manageable. All cats and dogs produce dander, even the supposedly “non-allergenic” breeds, and some individuals of any given breed produce more than others of the same breed.
If you have a history of dander or feather dust allergies, or even suspect that you might have this kind of allergy, do not adopt a member of the cockatoo family, including cockatiels. Parts of their feathers disintegrate into very fine dust in the normal course of moulting. If you’re already caring for a cockatoo, a surgical mask will help. Take some time to introduce the mask to the parrot before wearing one, to avoid panic and to help him make sure you are really you.
Bedding and food
Sometimes, the problem isn’t the pet, but the bedding or the pet’s food.
A gradual change might solve the problem. For example, if your cat’s normal brand of cat food contains shellfish, and you’re allergic to shellfish, you’re going to have problems. Even if someone else handles the feeding and dish-cleaning duties, you’ll still come in contact with shellfish contamination on the cat’s fur when you pet him and on his tongue when he licks you.
In the same way, changing your dog’s bedding from wool to polyester fleece might be all you need to do.
If you’re allergic to your pet
Depending on the nature and severity of the allergy, you may be able to keep your pet even if you discover you are allergic to her. In fact, many people do.
Take whatever steps you can to minimize allergens. Most people with pet allergies also have other allergies, and the more you can eliminate of the non-pet allergens, the fewer problems you’ll have. The usual advice includes:
- Dust and vacuum frequently.
- Have the dog bathed regularly.
- Keep the pets out of the bedrooms.
- Put throw rugs on the furniture to simplify cleaning.
- Use an air purification unit to filter out pollens, dander, and dust.
- Avoid using scented products such as candles, air fresheners, and fabric softeners.
Parents allergic to pets
Another tricky situation can come up if you and your partner both have animal allergies and your kids have been pleading for a pet. No matter what they promise, children cannot be solely responsible for the care of an animal. You will be the one taking the pet to the vet clinic, at the very least.
Presuming that you’d like to bring a pet into the family, the obvious option is to choose a pet that you’re not allergic to. Consider White Cloud Mountain fish, for example. They are reasonably easy to care for, and there are very few allergens to worry about. Choose a fish food that you can tolerate being around, and you’re good to go.
A part-time pet might be the answer. For example, some riding clubs have the option of a “partial rental” of a pony. In this situation, your child goes to the stable to take care of her pony, either every day or alternating with another “renter”, and has her pet outside the home. In the case of severe allergies, she might need to shower at the riding club and change clothes before heading home. A teenager might even seek a job at such a stable.
Do one of your friends in the neighborhood have a dog that is home alone all day? If your child is old enough to babysit, you and your child might be able to come to an arrangement with the neighbor. Your child could go over to the neighbor’s house to play with the dog, keeping the dog company. The dog gets attention during the workday, the child gets a part-time pet, and the neighbor gets a happier dog, resulting in fewer behavioral problems.
If all else fails, encourage a hobby that involves animals that are not pets. Bird-watching is one option. Wildlife sketching or photography is another.
- Determine what you’re actually allergic to.
- Then, if you already have pets, start taking steps to minimize the damage, or
- If you are planning to bring home a pet, choose one that you won’t react to.
Bio: Sebastian Paulin is advocate for life with Pets. He enjoys spending his time with his animals including a gorgeous chocolate Labrador Cadbury and writing on his pet blog Love That Pet . He is currently expecting his first child and looks forward to sharing his life with not only his animals but his precious baby as well. Love that Pet is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.