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Pets and Allergies

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Sunday, April 27, 2008 05:45 AM

By Kathi Travers

After much thought and visiting the BC SPCA shelter frequently to visit the companion animals looking for a new home, you have decided to bring one of the balls of fluff into your world. After a few wonderful days or even weeks of getting to know each other, you notice that you get itchy, watery eyes more and more frequently and your nose gets stuffed up to boot. You end up visiting your doctor and he ends up telling you that your new furry friend is the likely culprit. Your new best friend triggers allergy symptoms.

What are your options? Your doctor will likely tell you to part with your friend. That may be the most effective way. But such a separation can be heart breaking if this is what you have been longing for in your life. If your allergy is mild, you may want to decide learn to live with it, as long as it does not develop into a more acute situation. If that is your decision, tell your doctor. Your doctor can discuss the risks of such a decision. You may learn about other options to help you reduce the amount of pet dander in your house.

It is the dander or the saliva which triggers the reactions of sneezing, watering eyes and sniffles. Dander is dry skin that flakes off. Saliva does the same thing when it dries. Miniscule particles then float through the air and will often be trapped in furniture, carpets and curtains. By reducing these tiny particles, you may find that you can live harmoniously with a four legged friend.

Replacing carpets with wood, linoleum or tile floors would help. If you have noticed, people are reverting to these types of materials in their homes because they do not harbor allergens. If you have carpets and want to keep them, make sure you have a good vacuum cleaner, possibly one with a HEPA filter, and use it often. For your window coverings, consider using shades, shutters, vertical blinds rather than curtains. If you do use curtains, wash them frequently.

Groom your cat or dog regularly. This means brushing everyday. Wipe the pet down with a damp cloth and bath the pet no more than twice a month. Too much bathing will cause dry skin which will produce more dander. As scary as it may sound, this applies to cats as well. If you get a new kitten, start the bathing as soon as possible so it will get use to the procedure.

One can also purchase an electrostatic, high-efficiency, particulate air cleaner commonly known as a HEPA filter. They work well throughout the home.

Designate a pet free zone in your home, such as the bedrooms. As tempting as it is to have a pet in the bedroom, if you have allergies, keep that room pet free. Wash your pet’s toys and bedding regularly. Wash your hands after touching your pet.

There is another aspect to the development of allergies. A study, supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), showed that children raised in a home with two or more dogs or cats during the first year of their life may be less likely to develop allergies than children raised without pets. The study indicates that immunity is built to not only protect against pet allergies but also common allergies such as dust mites, ragweed, and grass. There are many people whose allergies come and go. You may be one of those.

So don’t give up the thought of sharing your life with a cuddly creature. Do your homework. While there are no specific dog breeds that are 100% dander free, there are some that do not develop much at all and would be a good choice for someone with allergies. They include the Poodle, Schnauzer, Bedlington Terrier, Maltese, Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, Portuguese Water Dog, West Highland Terrier, Blue Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Basenji, and the Mexican Hairless also known as the Xoloitzcuintli.

Please also have a chat with your family physician. If you are willing to take medication, there are new antihistamines available that can help with the problem.

All this may seem like a lot to endure just to have a pet. Trust me, it's worth it. There is nothing like the human/animal bond. Roger Caras, who is considered to be one of the true animal champions of the 20th century, summed it up best when he said: “Dogs are not our whole life but they make us whole


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