You don’t have to give up your dog, cat or other pet if you suffer from allergies. Here are some ways to cope
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My husband’s allergies to our dogs were mild until last year. Now he has developed asthma and has a twice-daily routine of medication and an inhaler.
Allergies. They’re the bane of people who love pets but develop a runny nose, itchy throat and watery eyes in their presence -- or worse, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
It’s one thing to know from childhood that you’re allergic to dogs, cats or other animals, but when allergies develop later in life, after you’ve built a relationship with members of the animal kingdom, it’s hard to give them up.
The good news is that in many cases, you don’t have to. Medication and environmental changes can help you and your pet live comfortably together. Here are some ways to keep allergy symptoms at bay.
-- Bathe your pet frequently. It’s not fur or hair that causes allergies, but saliva, urine and dander (microscopic dead skin cells). These substances contain proteins that cause allergic reactions, and frequent bathing helps to remove them from fur. Our dogs are bathed weekly, and it helps. Some cats take well to baths, believe it or not, but if yours doesn’t, at least wipe him down with a damp cloth daily.
-- Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after roughhousing with your dog or cuddling your cat.
-- Keep pets off the bed or out of the bedroom entirely. Reducing the presence of allergens in your sleeping area will help to ensure a good night’s rest. Instead, enjoy your pet’s presence while you’re both awake.
-- Clean often. Use HEPA air purifiers and filtering products. Use a double or microfilter bag in your vacuum. Have a family member wipe down the inside of your car after your pet has been in it, or take it to the car wash.
-- Redecorate. If possible, replace carpeting with hard flooring such as wood or tile. Limit floor coverings to machine-washable throw rugs (and use hot water on them). If you must have carpet, choose one with a low pile, and steam-clean it often. Steam-clean furniture as well. Declutter your home. The fewer items that collect allergens, the better.
-- Avoid being with your pet in small, enclosed areas such as veterinary exam rooms. Veterinarian Kathryn Primm (who is herself allergic to pets) has some clients with allergies who wait in the lobby or outdoors while their pets are being examined. “We have alerts on their charts; ‘client allergic to dogs,’” she says.
-- Consider the type and size of pet. It’s just common sense that a small dog produces less allergens than a big one, but did you know that female cats produce less allergens than males? If you are adding a pet to your family, these are factors to consider. Be aware that there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. Some animals produce less allergens than others, but it varies by individual. You can’t assume that just because a pet has a certain type of coat or is a certain breed that you won’t react to him.
-- Consult a board-certified allergist. In the bad old days, allergists used to recommend getting rid of pets, but now most of them recognize the importance of the human-animal bond and will help you develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. For many people, immunotherapy (allergy shots) is an effective long-term treatment. They helped Elizabeth Tobey, who as a young child was so allergic she couldn’t have pets. “I had a series of allergy shots as a kid, and over time have built up some tolerance through exposure,” she says.
loss is worrisome
Q: My cat doesn’t seem very hungry anymore. What could be causing her loss of appetite? -- via email
A: All of us worry when our pets don’t eat. That’s especially true if their normal habit is to chow down with gusto. Pets who don’t eat lose energy, don’t feel good and can develop serious metabolic problems if it goes on for very long.
A lack of appetite can have many causes. It’s often the first sign of illness or, in some cases, the only sign. Cats, as you probably know, are masters at hiding sickness, and not eating may be the only clue they give. So a noticable change in appetite is one of the things you should let your veterinarian know about right away.
Appetite loss can also be a side effect of certain medications or pain from a condition such as dental disease, a mass in the mouth or inflammation of the jaw muscles that pets use to chew. Cats in renal failure often have decreased appetite. Sometimes pets simply don’t like the way their food tastes. Cats are notorious for developing aversions to certain foods.
A poor sense of smell can affect appetite. You’ve probably experienced that when you’ve had a bad cold. If your cat is getting on in years, her sense of smell may not be as good as it used to be. Or she may have an upper respiratory infection that is affecting her ability to smell.
Never assume that your cat will eat when she’s hungry. Just two or three days of not eating can cause your cat -- especially if she is overweight or stressed for some reason -- to develop a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.
If your cat is experiencing decreased appetite, complete lack of appetite or changes in appetite, take her to your veterinarian for a checkup. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
you can use
-- Facts about cats you might not have known: Spayed cats live an average of 3.1 years longer than unspayed cats. Neutered cats live an average of 11.8 years longer than unneutered cats. Kidney disease is seven times more likely in cats than in dogs. The top three things people like about cats are that they like to play, they entertain themselves and they make people smile.
-- Grand champion Lockenhaus' Rumor Has It V Kenlyn became only the second German shepherd dog -- and only the second member of the herding group -- to take best in show at the 2017 Westminster Kennel Club Show. It’s the 39th time a female has won. More Westminster trivia: Irish setters have had the most sporting group placements (54) at Westminster, but have never won BIS. Norwegian elkhounds have won the hound group 11 times, but the breed has never won BIS. A Pekingese has won BIS four times, most recently in 2012. A boxer has won four times, and a Norwich terrier twice.
-- Looking for a good read? The Dog Writers Association of America recently named its best books of 2016. The winners were Laura T. Coffey, Dogwise Best Book Award for “My Old Dog”; Christina Potter, Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Book for “Insider Training”; Kristin von Kreisler, Best Book -- Fiction, Young Adult or Humor for “Earnest”; Kim Kavin for “The Dog Merchants” and Tracy Libby for “Reporting for Duty” in the Reference Book category; Patti Lawson for “What Happens to Rover When the Marriage Is Over” in the Human-Animal Bond category; Eileen Anderson for “Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction” in the Behavior, Health or General Care category; Pamela Dennison for “You Can Train Your Dog” in the Training category; and Cindy W. Hollingsworth, “Westie Tails,” in the Children’s category. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker.
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.