House pets and hay fever; some practical tips!

Pet “dander” is an animal’s dead skin cells. Dander is attached to the pet’s hair and can trigger typical symptoms of hay fever, including itchy nose, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

The problem with pet allergens

As pet’s dander is shed, it is deposited onto, and into, soft furnishings including cushions, carpets, bedding, as well as clothes. Once it is trapped in the fibres of these furnishings and carpets it can be difficult to get rid of. Even turbo boosted vacuum cleaners won’t always achieve the results you’re after. The difficulty with eliminating dander is that it comprises very small particles which, once they become airborne, can continue to circulate for extended periods.

The source of cat allergen is in the sebaceous glands in the cat’s skin. When they lick themselves (and that’s often) the allergen attaches to the cat’s hair, as well as dust particles throughout your home. Cat allergen can remain in a home for up to six months after the cat has been removed, and in the cat’s bedding for up to four years. In dogs, the allergen is their saliva which attaches to both their dander and hair.

While breeders talk about “hypoallergenic” (or allergen free) cats and dogs, the term “hypoallergenic” can be misleading. Some varieties of dogs and cats have more predictable non-shedding coats, or as close to non-shedding as possible, which produces less dander.  And whilst lower shedding breeds may cause less hay fever reaction, there are not yet any 100% allergen free (“hypoallergenic”) breeds.

Avoiding pet allergens

So how can you avoid pet dander allergies? Fish and reptiles are your best option! Otherwise, just as general personal hygiene and maintaining a healthy sleep environment are important for humans with hay fever, there are some important tips when it comes to pet hygiene and your shared environments too.

What can be done

If you have hay fever and your family insist on a pet dog or cat or even guinea pigs, mice, rats, rabbits, birds and horses (which are also sources of potential allergens) then it only seems fair that everyone muck in and help keep those symptoms under control! Here are some hay fever tips the whole family should be on board with to help make your home a happier healthier environment!

  • vacuum floors and floor coverings regularly and often, one with a high quality HEPA filter is preferable
  • get into the habit of washing your hands after touching your pet
  • reduce pet allergen load within the nose with a preservative-free nasal saline or sinus wash (this may also help reduce allergy symptoms!)
  • wash your pet dog or cat’s bed and wash it often
  • maintain regular grooming
  • regularly bathe your dog or cat to reduce airborne allergens. Some pet shops supply special shampoo for this purpose.
  • do not let your pet sleep on your bed (don’t worry, they’ll sleep just as well on their own bed!) Better still, keep pets out of the bedroom completely.
  • a kennel or bed in a protected area on your patio, deck or garden is preferable to keeping your pet inside
  • restrict your pet’s movements to a few rooms only in your home
  • if possible, remove carpets, curtains and any unnecessary soft furnishings that will trap dander
  • HEPA filtering air may reduce allergen levels, over time.

And our favourite, easy tip to help reduce dander, fur and dust, grab a window cleaning squeegee, rinse it and run it over the surface of your carpet, rug or floor. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll collect!


Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

American Kennel Club

American College of Allergies and Immunology