Spring offers plenty for us to enjoy, from blooming flowers to sunny days. But, in terms of dogs and cats, it's also the start of the fur-shedding season - nature's attempt to get rid of thicker winter fur. Fortunately, there are lots of ways for pet parents with allergic reactions to pet hair to keep things under control.
About 30 percent of people with general allergies also have allergic reactions to cats and dogs, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. People with pet allergies have supersensitive immune systems that can react to harmless proteins in a pet's dander (dead skin that is shed), which are called allergens. Pet hair, while not an allergen, collects dander and harbors other allergens like dust and pollen.
The best way to fight the war on fur hypersensitivities is on two fronts: on the pet itself through regular grooming, and around the home, starting with a good spring cleaning to maintain a fur-free environment.
Keeping pets tidy
Dogs with healthy skin shed skin cells every 22 days. A dog with unhealthy skin can shed cells as often as every six days, exacerbating the amount of shedding that occurs in the home. Consequently, most groomers suggest that, on average, a dog should be bathed once a month. There are wonderful organic hypoallergenic shampoos available that are gentle enough to be used frequently.
Because most cats are water-phobic, consider using grooming wipes specially formulated for feline fur to help remove loose hair and stop it from settling on furnishings and carpeting in the home.
Brushing your pets regularly is essential if you are to win the pet hair war. Grooming should never be considered a chore; rather, think of it as a way to spend special quality time with your pet. It's worth taking advice from a professional groomer to find the right tools for your pet. For example, when it comes to cats, there are special de-shedding tools designed for long fur.
The secret to successfully grooming a cat is to allow your feline to pick the place where she is happy to sit to be brushed. It could be on your lap, or on a kitchen counter. Always put down a mat or towel so that they don't slide around.
Dogs are usually happy to be groomed anywhere. Outside in the yard is a good option because then the loose hair that flies around won't remain in the house.
Tools and tricks
In terms of helping to keep your home environment fur-free, consider a powerful vacuum cleaner to be your best friend. Last year, Consumer Reports magazine tested a variety of upright, canister and handheld models to discover that you don't have to own a vacuum specially labeled for pet hair to get the job done efficiently. It's all about doing your research to find the cleaner offering the best suction, and one that comes with a variety of tools that allow you to extract hair from stairs, crevices and cushions.
There's no question that the ubiquitous lint roller also plays a very important role in targeting hair pickup, too. In addition to the standard-sized rollers used for personal use, check pet stores and online pet retailers for special very large sticky sheets that are designed to lift pet hair on a grand scale.
And as part of your spring cleaning, remember to wash any throws, blankets and even pet beds that are popular snooze zones in the house. For best results, wash these items monthly.
Food for thought
Finally, if you think your pet is shedding excessively and is also suffering from flaky skin, the cause could emanate from the food bowl. Good nutrition is vital for all pets, because it ensures a healthy skin and coat, and that means they will shed less.
So you can in fact control your own allergies considerably by ensuring your pet has a great diet. It's certainly worth a discussion with your veterinarian.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Originally published March 6, 2016.