We all love our pets. They may be a lot of work, but they’re close companions who never leave our side. In many homes across the United States, pets are a centerpiece. From dogs and cats to gerbils and rabbits, furry friends can be found just about everywhere. Better yet, owning pets has been shown to improve mood and mental health. The benefits seem absolutely endless! Sadly, there are a couple drawbacks.
Owning a pet with a coat of hair comes with health risks. Your dog or cat shedding is probably a nuisance when you clean, but that hair has a slightly more sinister impact on your air quality. Pet dander is extremely tiny pieces of skin that any pet with hair sheds along with its hair. If someone is allergic to that particulate animal, the pet dander is what triggers a reaction. Beyond the dander itself, allergens such as saliva, urine, and feces can trigger allergic reactions. If a pet licks itself and that air and skin is then shed, the pet dander can carry the allergens along with it.
This pet dander can float around the air, waiting to be breathed in and trigger a reaction. However, it can also settle into carpeting, furniture, and clothing. When that fabric gets moved around, the pet dander will reenter the air and once again have a chance to trigger an allergic reaction. This is why managing your pet’s dander is key to maintaining a high level of air quality to ensure your health. This is especially true if you have children, who are especially susceptible to these allergens.
Impacts of Pets on Air Quality and Health
Pet dander impacts to air quality because of how small it is. As the dander is extremely light, it can stay in the air for an extremely long amount of time. In fact, pet dander is more likely to stick around in the air longer than dust mites! Beyond that, the flakes of skin from your pet are jagged around the edges, making them perfect for getting stuck on fabric all over your house. These two characteristics allow it to have spread easily, having the biggest impact possible on your health.
Pet dander is particularly troublesome if someone is allergic to a certain animal. Pet allergies have a variety of symptoms, including irritated eyes and throat, sneezing and runny nose, difficulty breathing, and coughing fits. In more severe cases, an individual may also develop a harsh rash or eczema in response to pet dander.
Pets to Watch Out For
Not all pets are created equal! When it comes to managing indoor air quality, some are worse than others. If you’re looking for a new pet, having an idea of which pets are the best for air quality can help you decide. If you already have a pet you love, knowing how much they impact air quality can help you figure out how to best address the effects. Keep in mind that this applies only to pets with fur or feathers! If you consider yourself a reptile person, you’re in the clear.
Cats and dogs are among the worst for allergies, with cats having a slightly worse impact on air quality than dogs. Rabbits, hamsters, and other small animals are next. While these small rodents will pose a threat to those with the worst allergies, the fact that they’re primarily kept in cages limits the spread of pet dander and helps keep air quality high. At the bottom of the list are birds, as feathers shed far less frequently than a full coat of fur.
As far as specific breeds are concerned, long, thick, and straight hair breeds are among the biggest culprits when it comes to air quality. Pets with short hair often shed less and curly hair prevents dander from escaping the bed's body until you brush them! Of course, always keep in mind that no pet is entirely dander-free, meaning if your allergies are severe, you should steer clear.
Managing Air Quality with Pets
The best way to limit the impact of pet dander has on air quality is to regularly remove it from your home. Getting a vacuum with a variety of attachments will allow you to regularly clean your furniture, floorboards, and carpet. You can also clean hard surfaces with microfiber cloths to remove pet dander and other allergens. Depending on how much your pet sheds, you may need to do this as often as daily or as infrequently as weekly.
When it comes to limiting the presence of pet dander in your home, regularly bathing and brushing your pet can make a huge difference. Pets that go outdoors will track in allergens, meaning you can be impacted even if the pet dander itself doesn’t trigger a reaction. Daily brushing—followed by vacuuming the area you brushed your pet in—can help you better manage air quality in your home.
You should also think about what parts of the home your pets have access to. While it’s important to have a high level of air quality throughout your home, it’s even more important to have good air quality in the bedroom to allow for quality sleep. As a result, it’s best to have your pet sleep in a different room and not on your bed. Beyond that, pets shouldn’t sit on furniture unless you’re prepared to clean it extremely frequently.
And as always, a quality air purifier and monitor will help you better manage overall air quality in your home! The majority of air filters will remove pet dander from the air, helping you catch what you missed while cleaning. There’s no better way to ensure your health and to keep your home’s air as clean as possible.