Studies show that approximately 15% of the population is allergic to dogs or cats. An estimated one-third of Americans who are allergic to cats (about two million people) live with at least one cat in their household anyway. In a study of 341 adults who were allergic to cats or dogs and had been advised by their physicians to give up their pets, only one out of five did. What's more, 122 of them obtained another pet after a previous one had died. It's clear the benefits of pet companionship outweigh the drawbacks of pet
Living comfortably with a companion animal despite being allergic to him requires a good understanding of the allergic condition and an
All cats and dogs are allergenic (allergy-causing) to people who are allergic to animals. Cats tend to be more allergenic than dogs for allergic people, although some people are more sensitive to dogs than cats. Contrary to popular belief, there are no "non-allergenic" breeds of dogs or cats; even hairless breeds may be highly allergenic.
Dogs with soft, constantly growing hair—the Poodle or the Bichon Frise, for example—may be less irritating to some individuals, although this may be because they are bathed and groomed more frequently. One dog or cat of a particular breed may be more irritating to an individual allergy sufferer than another animal of that same breed.
If your or a family member's allergies are simply miserable, but not life-threatening, take these steps to reduce the symptoms:
• Create an "allergy free" zone in the home—preferably the bedroom—and strictly prohibit the pet's access to it. Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner (available at almost any home and garden store or discount department store) in the bedroom.
• Consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows because allergen particles brought into the room on clothes and other objects can accumulate in them.
• Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of the home, and avoid dust-and-dander-catching furnishings such as cloth curtains and blinds and carpeted floors. Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander, washing articles such as couch covers and pillows, curtains, and pet beds.
• Use veterinary recommended shampoo and bath your pet on a weekly basis can reduce the level of allergens on fur by as much as 84%.
• Don't be quick to blame the family pet for allergies. Ask your allergist to specifically test for allergies to pet dander, rather than making an assumption. And understand that allergies are cumulative.
• Immunotherapy (allergy shots) can improve symptoms but cannot eliminate them entirely. They work by gradually desensitizing a person's immune system to the pet allergens.