Indoor Allergies in Pets

Jan 24, 2019   Tracey   Health & Wellness

Indoor allergies are much more prevalent in the winter months due to closed up windows and doors and little air circulation. Several studies have shown that indoor air quality can be up to 20 times more polluted than outdoor air quality. This stark statistic not only affects humans but the pets we share our lives with, as well.  If these allergens are affecting us, just think of how they are affecting our pets. Compared to humans, a dog's sense of smell is 40 times greater and a cat's sense of smell is 14 times greater. Indoor allergies are a common, and growing, problem with our pets and can range from watery eyes and sneezing to scratching and hot spots.

By far, the leading contributor of indoor air pollution is cigarette smoking. In addition to increasing the already substantial risk of cancer in our pets, secondhand smoke can cause numerous health issues for our pets. According to the article Risks of Second Hand Smoke for Dogs and Cats by Dr. Jennifer Coates, pets “living with smokers are more likely to suffer from respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma and bronchitis).” While the second hand smoke is the major issue risk for disease, the smoke can also cause allergies in our pets from breathing it in and it landing on their toys to their bedding and even food dishes! Smoking outside the home, on a porch or in a garage, can greatly increase the air quality of the home and reduce the risk of the pet developing indoor allergies.

Dust is just as much of an irritant to our pets as it is to us! Make sure you are changing the furnace and air conditioning filters regularly and if possible, have your ducts clean twice a year to reduce the presences of dust particles in the home. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, air fresheners - both aerosols and plug-ins –scented candles and diffusers can reduce the indoor air quality of the home. Air fresheners contain a number of toxic chemicals, such as ethanol and acetone and the harsh fragrances of candles and diffusers can be overwhelming to our pets. Prolonged exposure to these toxic chemicals and irritating fragrances can lead to allergies, asthma, bronchitis and respiratory conditions in pets.  Citrus fruits, such as orange and lemon can freshen up the scent of the home without the allergies risks. Using a garbage disposal to grind up an orange or lemon peel, or adding the peel to a pot of boiling water on the stove, can provide a refreshing, chemical-free scent to the home.

If you are using essential oils, only use very high quality and keep them out of the reach of your pets. According to VCA animal hospitals, “many liquid potpourri products and essential oils, including oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to dogs. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic. Essential oils and liquid potpourris contain chemicals that are rapidly absorbed orally or through the skin. Many of these chemicals are metabolized through the liver. Very young dogs and puppies, and dogs with liver disease are more sensitive to their effects. Liquid potpourri and some essential oils can also irritate or burn the skin and mouth. Only a couple of licks or a small amount on the skin could be harmful”

Scratching, biting, hair loss, hot spots and paw licking can all be caused by the artificial fragrance and chemicals in leading carpet deodorizers. Inhalation of these powders can cause respiratory issues in our pets and lying on treated carpets, even after they've been vacuumed, can cause skin and eye allergies.  Even though these deodorizers are meant to be vacuumed up, even a minuscule amount can cause an allergic reaction.  The size and height of an animal also needs to be taken into account, a larger dog might not be sneezing or inhaling the leftover particles, but a smaller dog or cat could be because they are closer to the ground. Even if the pet is inhaling the particles or laying their heads directly on the carpet, they could absorb the chemicals through their paw pads. Baking soda and vinegar are both pet friendly natural deodorizers to sprinkle and vacuum on your carpets, baking soda can be used to absorb a pet mess and then vacuumed.  Make sure to ALWAYS spot-test a small area on your carpet before using baking soda and especially before using the vinegar. Better safe than sorry.

Similarly to carpet cleaners some pets will be allergic to the strong scents of laundry detergent or fabric softener. Handwashing with a pet shampoo and then drying can alleviate the potential for a reaction. Or, if you like, baking soda and WHITE vinegar can be used as a hypoallergenic alternative.

A lot of our household cleaners are heavily-scented, you should always check to make sure the caps are secured on tightly. Doing so alleviates both the risk of a poison emergency and an allergic reaction to the fumes.

If a pet is wearing a flea collar or topical chemicals for flea control, these chemicals could be transferring into their bedding, the couch or the floor. The next time a pet lays their head on the same spot, they could have an allergic reaction to the chemicals, especially if they are getting it into their eyes.  Our blogpost on fleas and ticks offers many natural, hypoallergenic treatments for both fleas and ticks.

Artificial fragrances in commercially made kitty litter can lead to the same respiratory, eye and nose issues as the air fresheners and carpet deodorizers.  If a cat is avoiding the litter box, it may be due to the harsh fragrances of the litter. Think back to the last time you opened a bag or box of scented kitty litter and now add that a cat's sense of smell and it's easy to see how a cat could be overwhelmed by the artificial fragrance.  Sprinkling a small amount of baking soda into the litter will help contain odor.

If you notice your pet is suffering from indoor allergies, especially in the winter months, one of the above could be the culprit. Thankfully, now more than ever there are pet-friendly, safe and natural alternatives to chemically filled, allergy causing products. While most allergies can be easily minimized, always seek veterinary care if you notice your pet is having any facial swelling, bleeding or difficulty breathing. 

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