Allergies are on the rise for both people and pets. Typically, dogs and cats don't suffer from runny noses and watery eyes, but signs that your pet could have a problem do include sneezing, wheezing, itching and scratching.
In a perfect world, we’d all live in an environment that’s free of dust, fleas, pollen, smoke and other triggers. Here are 10 tips that will definitely help to reduce allergens in the household.
Dust mites are the most common household allergen to cause allergic reactions in pets. These minuscule mites live on dead skin cells and other detritus in house dust, and are impossible to eradicate completely. It’s important to vacuum all the places that your pets have designated as snooze zones, including underneath beds. Also wash pet beds and bedding regularly.
It takes only one flea bite for a pet to have an allergic reaction. Even if you have an indoors-only cat, she can be infected from fleas transported into the home by the dog or even by you. Fleas spend only 20 percent of their time on pets. The rest of the time, they are in your carpets, furniture and drapes. If you are treating your entire home, be sure to use pet-friendly products and remove your pets from the environment for the duration of the treatment and for at least a day afterwards. Vacuum cleaners that have built-in ultraviolet lights are excellent because the light kills existing fleas and any eggs waiting to hatch.
Mold is a fungus that breaks down materials such as leaves, wood, dirt and food. Mold spores trigger reactions like allergic rhinitis or asthma, and also produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — that musty odor that irritates eyes, noses and throats. Mold means an all-out war in the household, as you have to target all surfaces. For starters, wash infected areas with bleach to remove the visible signs. HEPA filters installed in the home will help to clean the air, and dehumidifiers will prevent mold growth. Infections from mold in pets are often mistreated because they have been wrongly diagnosed as an allergy to pollen or dust mites. While treating your dog for allergies might help alleviate some symptoms, it won’t be that effective unless you get rid of the mold.
Outdoor Mold and Pollens
It’s difficult to control allergens in the great outdoors. Allergists say that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air means that plants produce three to four times more pollen than in previous years. The best way is to restrict your pet’s outdoor activities at certain times when the pollen count is high, or you’ve just mowed the lawn. Also, keep pets indoors if the wind is blowing and be sure to remove grass cuttings immediately. Aspergillus is a species of common mold found throughout the environment, particularly in dust, straw, grass clippings and hay. Infections can be nasal but spread throughout the body, causing lethargy, depression, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s definitely worth a trip to the vet for a proper diagnosis.
Smoke: First-, Second- and Thirdhand
The risks associated with smoking and the dangers of secondhand smoke are no secrets. But now the focus is on thirdhand smoke, residual tobacco smoke contamination that accumulates in indoor living spaces and on the hair, skin, clothing and personal effects of smokers. It’s now being recognized as a major contributor to the health risks of tobacco and indoor air pollution. Pets are very susceptible because they are walking and sleeping on such surfaces, and then lick their paws or put their toys in their mouths. The answer: Make your home environment completely smoke-free.
If you are renting or buying a home and are unsure about the history of previous occupants, it's essential to repaint all the walls and re-carpet. That includes the mats under carpets, too. And be careful about what carpets you put down, as many carpets have backings that contain chemicals or are affixed with chemical adhesives that can cause allergies.
Ozone generators and HEPA vacuum cleaners can maintain your home environment from further contamination.
Essential Oil Diffusers and Perfumes
Pets can be allergic to your perfume. So, if your pooch or feline starts sneezing soon after you’ve splashed on your signature scent, consider that your fragrance could be an issue. It’s also important to remember to never burn pure essential oils around cats. In concentrated form, essential oils are toxic to felines because cats lack the necessary enzymes in the liver to break down and excrete the chemical compounds found naturally in essential oils. Hydrosols, oils that have been through a special water/steam process, are OK.
Many air fresheners, whether in a spray or solid form, do not solve odor issues by eliminating them; they simply mask them. Pets are often allergic to the scents used in such products, which are also known to exacerbate asthmatic conditions in humans too. There are special pet-friendly, non-toxic products available in pet specialty stores and stores that specialize in general, environmentally friendly products.
The EPA has estimated that more than 50 percent of indoor pollution is a direct result of household cleaning products. Pets are especially vulnerable to the effects of perpetual exposure to the chemicals in these products. It’s important to remember that pets walk on most of the surfaces that we clean all the time, and these products can cause direct allergic reactions in skin and fur. Also, pets constantly wash themselves and lick their paws, ingesting cleaning products in the process. Because pets have faster metabolisms than people, they are at even greater risk because they absorb more of these toxins into their bloodstreams.
Be sure to shop for all-natural, environmentally safe, non-toxic cleaning materials. Such products are also strategically designed to reduce allergen sensitivity from dust mites, pet dander and molds.
Any pet owner knows that pet hair and dander can accumulate on floors and other hard surfaces of your home. Stay on top of this cleaning challenge with Swiffer Sweeper. Swiffer's trap-and-lock technology picks up pet hair and dander allergens on hardwood, tile and linoleum floor types.
Next: Pet-Safe Cleaning Products
Is your pet's food bowl causing pet acne?
Your pet could very well be allergic to her food and drinking bowls if they are made from certain plastic materials.
Feline and canine acne — blackheads and red lesions on the chin area — is very common, and has been linked to chemicals in plastic food bowls.
As in humans, pet acne is a result of an oily buildup that blocks the hair follicles. And again, like in humans, it gets worse when scratched and can get infected. It’s also not gender-specific and it can strike at any age. Often, the skin continues to break out throughout the pet’s life.
Change out plastic bowls for glass, ceramic or stainless steel. All can be washed safely in dishwashers. Be sure to wash them regularly!