Pet dander may seem harmless to most. But for some people, it triggers uncomfortable sometimes severe allergic reactions. Furthermore, a high accumulation of dander can impact indoor air quality and overall hygiene.
In a household where pets are cherished members, managing pet dander becomes more important.
Managing pet dander involves a combination of regular cleaning routines and pet care. This ranges from vacuuming your home to grooming your pet regularly. Adopting strategies like using air purifiers and allergen-resistant bedding can also help reduce pet dander and maintain a healthier home environment.
In this guide, you will learn more about pet dander and practical ways to control dander levels in your home.
What Is Pet Dander?
Pet dander allergy happens when an individual’s pet allergy is triggered by the allergen, dander.
Dander is very small or even microscopic in size and can be hard to spot by the naked eye.
But when accumulated in large enough quantities, it does look like dandruff.
Dander is basically dead loose pet skin that gets shed into the air. This happens when your pet grooms itself or starts shedding its fur or feathers.
The dead skin by itself isn’t the issue but more the protein that is secreted by the animal that sticks on the dander.
How Does Pet Dander Spread?
Dander is very light and small and has the tendency to stick and latch onto objects.
Being so light and floaty, it is very transmissible as it becomes airborne once the air around it is agitated.
Hence there is a risk that dander can travel all over the house even if your pet is confined to certain areas.
Dog dander has its own protein called Can f1 and Can f2.
This protein is found in the dog’s saliva and passed on to their fur coat when licking themselves.
For dogs, the possibility of direct transmission to your skin is more common as they tend to lick their owners more.
Cat dander consists of the protein Fel d1. This protein is present in the cat’s saliva, oil glands and urine.
One common way of spreading this allergen is when the cat sheds its fur and there are some cats that can shed a lot of fur.
The good thing is there are some cats that are hypoallergenic like the Bengal which means that they produce less of this protein which can help reduce your sensitivity to the allergen.
Birds And Rodents Dander
Birds and rodents (hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, etc) can also shed dander when they groom themselves.
However, these pets only form a small portion of the pet population in the USA.
Dogs take the lead at 32% of households and cats at 27%
How To Get Rid Of Pet Dander?
Given that animal dander is so microscopic and floats easily in the air, it can be difficult to completely eliminate dander.
However, these below steps can at least ensure that it is possible to remove dander and keep it at a bare minimum.
1. Keep The Pet Out Of The Bedroom
This is the most important step and one that can be a game-changer for allergy sufferers.
Do not allow your pet into your room at all.
The bedroom is where you spend a good amount of time sleeping and the last thing you want is to spend the whole night breathing in dander and waking up with a bad allergic reaction.
Dogs are easy to train when teaching them about rooms that they can’t enter.
Cats on the other hand can be a bit more challenging.
You can check out our article which shows you how to train your cat to not enter a room.
2. Groom Your Pet Regularly
It is important that you brush your pet regularly to get rid of any loose fur and dead skin cells from its body.
Do not brush inside the house which can cause the dander to float all over the place.
Do it outside and with a mask on.
How often you brush your pet also depends on the type of fur that they have.
Breeds like the Golden Retriever or the Persian cat tend to shed more as they have longer fur.
It would be ideal to brush them at least once a day or every other day.
When you dispose of the loose fur, don’t just dump it in the bin inside the house. Tie it up in a plastic bag before throwing it away.
3. Vacuum Your Home
Vacuum cleaners are a godsend when removing pet dander at home.
Vacuuming your home and areas where you hang out regularly is an effective way to get rid of pet dander.
Get a vacuum cleaner that has filters good enough to capture pet dander from the surface.
Otherwise, the dander might just float back into the air again.
Here are some important features to look out for in a vacuum cleaner:
- at least 100 watts of suction power
- anti-allergen seal
- HEPA filter
Don’t forget to also vacuum your tabletops, sofas or any surface that can collect dander.
4. Don’t Use Carpets
Pet dander tends to stick to softer surfaces like carpets as compared to harder surfaces like wooden flooring. Plus carpet tends to act like velcro for loose fur.
If possible, you should remove any carpets at home so that they can reduce the amount of pet dander lying around on the ground.
5. Improve Indoor Air Quality At Home
One good way to improve the air quality at home is to use air filters. Not just ordinary air filters but HEPA filters.
HEPA filters work a lot better than normal air purifiers because they can effectively remove very small particles in the air, up to 0.3 microns.
The size of dander is about 2.5 microns hence a HEPA air purifier is able to remove the tiny particles of dander from the air that you breathe.
Put a HEPA filter in rooms that you spend most of your time in like the living room and bedroom.
Don’t forget to also change out or wash the HEPA filter regularly.
6. Clean Your Air Ducts
Dander isn’t just on surfaces and your pets but also in your HVAC system and air ducts if you have one.
It would be best to engage an HVAC professional to do a proper air duct cleaning as getting rid of the tiny particles can be difficult.
They have the right equipment to ensure that your ducts are clean and dander free.
7. Declutter Your Home
Get rid of stuff you don’t need that is just lying around the house.
This reduces the hiding spots for pet dander and makes cleaning more efficient.
Make it a habit of storing your belongings in boxes or in the cupboard to prevent them from collecting dander.
This makes it a lot easier and more effective to clean pet dander at home.
How Long Does Dander Stay In The House?
It can take a very long time to completely get rid of dander at home.
It can take up to 4 to 6 months of proper cleaning to totally get rid of dander in the house even if the pet is no longer around.
So even if you have no pets and the previous homeowner did, you can still be affected by the leftover dander when you move in.
Symptoms Of Pet Dander Allergies
When you get an allergy flare up, you might feel as if you are having a cold as the symptoms are rather similar
Some of us are born with an allergy to pets while some of us develop it later in life.
I only found out that I was allergic to cats after having my current cat for more than 12 years.
A study has found that “early exposure to furry pets seems to significantly reduce the risk of allergies and asthma in children“.
Here are some of the common symptoms:
- Itchy and runny nose
- Swollen, red and watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle aches
There are also different severities of animal dander allergic reactions that can range from mild to life-threatening.
If you have a more server reaction, you might also experience the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness or pain
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath
Symptoms are always isolated to the respiratory system. If your pet licks you, it can cause a reaction to your skin. Your skin can get itchy and inflamed.
Should You Rehome Your Pet?
There might come a point in time when you have tried everything in your power and still can’t avoid an allergy flare-up.
Some pet owners have no choice when the allergy flare-ups start to be life-threatening.
If you already have an existing pet allergy, my advice to you is to not have a pet at all to prevent this from happening.
Chances are you won’t be able to completely prevent your allergies from occurring.
It will be a very sad day for your pet if you have no choice but to rehome it after years of ownership.
Many pet owners are stricken with guilt and bad feeling when giving up their pets.
Please don’t ever just abandon your pet or drop your pet off at the shelter.
At the very least, make a good effort to find your pet the next best possible home before you say goodbye to your furry friend.
Iggy Thorne, also known as ‘Iggy the Explorer,’ is a seasoned writer with a flair for adventure and a deep love for animals.
Not only does he craft captivating stories often set in the great outdoors, but he’s also a dedicated pet owner who has owned and fostered both dogs and cats.
His expertise in animal care extends to volunteering at local shelters, making him a credible voice in pet ownership.
With a unique blend of humor and adventure, Iggy’s writing is as engaging as it is informative.