Allergies: Cats vs. Dogs
About half of all households in the U.S. have a pet and cats outnumber dogs. Here in Bozeman, Montana, a very pet-friendly town, dogs rule! While walking downtown, you are likely to come upon dogs in stores, dogs being walked, dogs leashed to bike racks on the sidewalk and more. While there is much conversation about non-allergic or non-shedding dogs or cats, the science does not corroborate this belief. Several studies have demonstrated that dog breeds claimed to be non-shedding or non-allergic release just as much dander as other dog breeds.
With that said, it is true that individuals may be allergic to some breeds of dogs compared to others, but it is not the same breeds for everyone. The major allergens in cats are Fel d1 (Felis domesticus) and in dogs is Can F1 (Canis familiaris). The primary source of Fel d1 is the skin (not saliva; studies where shaved cats were not allowed to lick themselves proved this!)
The primary treatment for pet allergies is:
- Remove the pet from the house. As long as the pet is in the house, the dander (light and “sticky”) will be found throughout the house (on floors, furniture, draperies, walls, etc.)
- If removal from the house is “not an option,” keep the pet outdoors as much as possible and out of the bedroom with the door closed. If there is one room in the house to be kept allergen safe, it’s the bedroom where one spends 25% to 33% of their life. Do not sleep with the pet!
- Frequent vacuuming (twice a week) and remove pet dander reservoirs. This means keeping pets off furniture and replacing upholstered furniture with wood, plastic or leather furniture. These surfaces are easier to clean.
- Air purifier: A HEPA air purifier is very efficient and when the correct unit is obtained (sufficient air turn over changes for the size of the room) can remove airborne pet dander. Consider one for the bedroom and one for the common room where a pet is present.
- Pet brushing, bathing and shampoo. This is a temporary solution but can help. The effect of washing the cat last for less than 1 week.
- Wash hands after touching pets.
If symptoms are still not controlled, then…
Medications: antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays can be effective in relieving symptoms but would likely require daily use as long as dander exposure is ongoing.
Allergy shots: allergen immunotherapy injections can relieve symptoms if a person is not controlled by avoidance measures and medication. This is the best long term solution that will result in less symptoms and less overall medication use.
In Montana, while dogs rule, the Bobcats get the glory! That would be the Montana State University Bobcats.
This educational information does not take the place of your physician’s advice.