Pet dander is the bane of existence for many lovers of dogs, cats, rabbits and furry or feathery creatures. That’s because dander, or skin flakes, can trigger allergies to the thing they care about most: their pets.
Pet dander basics
It consists of skin flakes that are often microscopic in size. When skin sheds from the body of animals with fur, hair or feathers, it floats through the air and lands on objects around the home. Because of the microscopic size and jagged shape, dander easily sticks to surfaces, upholstery and bedding. It can easily be spread throughout the home.
What causes pet allergies?
Dander contains a protein that causes allergic reactions in many people. It is also found in the urine and saliva of animals. Thus, whenever, a dog empties its bladder, the protein from urine can stick to the skin. Then once that skin is shed, it contains an extra dose of the allergy-triggering material. Similarly, because saliva also contains the protein, when your pet licks its fur, it also compounds the problem.
The allergic reaction
So how is an allergic reaction triggered, as a biological process? When a person with a pet allergy breathes in the skin flakes containing the protein, the immune system responds as if it is under attack by potentially harmful invaders. The immune system creates an antibody, which in turn stimulates mast cells, leading to the allergic reaction.
How to clean the air from dander
- Vacuum your home frequently
- Brush your pet regularly to remove dead skin cells and fur. Ideally, do so outside—and wear a mask
- Select carpeting with a low pile and steam clean it frequently or use throw rugs and wash them in hot water
- Keep your pet out of the bedroom and especially off the bed
- Wash dog toys frequently to remove dried saliva
- Wear a mask when cleaning a litter box
- Use a smart air purifier with a HEPA filter like Coway Airmega to remove airborne dander
Dander fast facts
- More pet dander is sloughed off in older animals than in younger animals
- The surface layer of mammalian skin is called the stratum corneum, which is shed as part of normal skin replacement
- Frequent washing of animals worsens the problem because washing makes skin dry, increasing flakiness
- Up to a third of pet owners also suffer from pet allergies
- Even shorthaired animals shed dander and saliva
- Newborns exposed to household pet and rodent dander, among other things, during their first year of life appear to have a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies