What Is Pet Dander and How Do You Get Rid of It?

6 Ways to get rid of Pet Dander. What is pet dander and how you get rid of it.
Have you ever wondered why you're sneezing and wheezing whenever you're around your precious pets? It's not their fault, it's the pesky pet dander!


What Is Pet Dander?

Pet dander is very tiny particles of skin that had been shed from animals with fur or feathers. So, foxes produce dander, parrots produce dander, and horses produce dander. Since most people don’t have these animals in their home, their dander is not a problem.

The dander from cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, and small rodents is a problem. Pet dander is the most common source of a pet allergy, but people can also be allergic to the proteins that are present in pet saliva, urine and feces.

All animals shed bits of skin. Some of the bits are large enough to be seen with our eyes. Other bits are so small you can’t see them without a microscope. No matter the size of the dander, it is a problem if you are allergic to animals. 

BTW - it is possible to be allergic to cats but not dogs.

Why is Pet Dander a Problem?

Dander contains a protein that causes allergic reactions. For people with allergies, pet dander is a real problem. 

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH) Millions of Americans live with pets despite being allergic to them. Any furry animal, most cats and dogs, may trigger allergy symptoms like sneezing or red, itchy eyes. Pet allergies can also make asthma harder to control.

The protein found in dander is not just on the fur, the protein is also found in the urine of your pets as well. So, every time the animal empties it’s bladder the protein from the urine can stick to the skin.

Even if you take your dog outside and down the street to do its business, you are going to bring some of that allergen back inside in the form of tiny droplets of urine that touch the skin.

Once that bit of skin is shed, it has a double dose of the protein that causes the allergic reaction. Dose one is the skin itself and dose two is the protein from the urine.

But wait, there’s more! The protein in dander that causes allergic reactions is also found in the saliva of the animal too. Now every time the cat or dog (or rabbit or ferret) licks, it spreads the protein.

Since our pets bathe by licking their fur and skin, they add more of the allergy-causing protein.  The skin that was groomed by the pet has a double dose of the protein thanks to the saliva.

Now when you inhale these tiny dander particles of skin, skin + urine, or skin + saliva your immune system thinks it is under attack by germs.

In allergic people, the immune system misidentifies these harmless proteins as evil invaders. It creates a specific antibody for the protein. The next time it sees the protein, it cues the antibody to start stimulating mast cells.

Allergic reactions to pet dander can vary in severity and symptoms, but some common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • Itchy skin or rash
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

    Now you know what pet dander is and the problems it can cause.

    For as long as the exposure continues, the reaction continues. A prolonged allergy attack caused by the pet dander can lead to a secondary infection such as bronchitis, sinusitis, or otitis media (ear infection). Allergies can also trigger asthma. 

    How Pet Dander is Spread at Home?

    What's in your dust? Those small bits of skin from your pet have ragged edges. They are also very light-weight.

    That is a terrible combination.

    It means that the ragged edges allow the dander to stick to absolutely everything and the light mass makes it laugh in the face of gravity.

    The dander flakes off the animal and becomes airborne. If you don’t inhale it immediately, it will stick to the first surface it hits. Once shed, pet dander repeatedly floats in the air, sticks to a surface, and then becomes airborne again.

    Every little disturbance sends it into the air. As soon as it touches something, it hangs on until it gets knocked loose again.

    In reality, this dander hitches a ride on people, household dust and belongings. You can go to the mall and find cat dander; even if a cat has never been in the mall. That’s because the dander rides on the clothes of pet owners.

    Dander can be found in offices, hospitals, and many places where pets don’t usually go. It rides in human hair and on clothing. It is easily transferred.

    A cat owner can take dander on an airplane, transfer it from their clothes to the seat and leave it behind for the next passenger. Dander can fly coast to coast. Animal dander is where you don’t expect it. 

    How Do You Get Rid of Animal Dander?

    If pet dander is so easily spread, how do you get rid of it? You can get rid of or reduce pet dander by:

    • Grooming the pet to reduce the amount of dander infested fur.
    • Vacuuming frequently.
    • Using a HEPA air filter (Austin Air makes an air purifier just for pets)
    • Use anti-allergen sprays.
    • Limit where the pet goes.

    First, brush your pet regularly to remove dead skin cells and fur. Ideally, brush the pet outside. If you are highly allergic, wear a mask while you groom the pet.

    Resist the temptation to frequently wash the animal. The more you wash, the greater the chances you will dry out the animal’s skin. Dry skin flakes more easily. So, frequent washing can actually make the situation worse.

    When you do need to wash your pet we recommended using shampoos that are gentle yet effective in removing dander. We carry 3 that work very well, Allersearch Pet +, Ecologyworks Pet Shampoo and Allersearch Cat +.

    Better instead to wipe the pet down between baths with wipes made for pet grooming or apply a coat conditioner like Allerpet Pet Solutions to remove loose dander. As a bonus, Allerpet also conditions, which can slow down the shedding process. 

    There's nothing more upsetting than to hear people say they have to get rid of cats because so and so is allergic. Well, it's b.s. actually because if they'd do some research they will see there are some possible solutions to the problem.

    Our son's mother-in-law is highly allergic to cats and he has 3 and sh manages to stay at their house just fine. 

    It just takes some planning and work.

    Yes, once a week you have to wipe pets down with the Allerpet, spray ADMS spray on furniture, bedding, pets bedding, etc., and sweep regularly to pick up the hair. 

    "I've been using this stuff for years and years. I've never had a problem with people coming over to house that's allergic to cats/dogs ever, ever have a reaction." Rural.Life  

    Pet dander denaturing agents are available in spray and powder form. We recommend sprays in most situations. Anti-allergen sprays are easy to use and when used properly are very effective.

    Look for tannic-acid based products or products that use alkaline substances or enzymes that break down the problem causing proteins. Vacuum first before spraying, and if using for the first time test for colorfastness. Tannic acid-based solutions can cause staining.

    Personally, we use and recommend the Allersearch ADMS Anti Allergen spray because it is highly effective and can be used on most fiber surfaces.

    "I've been using this product for years and years and it's also allowed a lot of friends to visit who were allergic to cats and or dogs. I spray this once a month on curtains, furniture, pet bedding, but if I wash the bedding, pet bedding I'll respray. I also use with allerpet C, allerpet D, allerpet shampoo, and just received the dusting spray but haven't used it yet." CM

    If you want to do something frequently, vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner. And speaking of vacuum cleaners, stay away from the models without a bag. You don’t want to expose yourself to allergens when you empty a dust container.

    Vacuum thoroughly. This is where a canister-style vacuum cleaner comes in handy. Vacuum walls, floors, carpets, rugs, furniture, and draperies.

    Many pet owners find relief from allergies by running a HEPA air cleaner. Run the air cleaner in the room where you and the pet spend the most time. Make sure it has a good HEPA filter and the machine is the right size for the room.

    Now for the really hard part. Keep the pet out of the bedroom and especially off the bed. You don’t want your bed covered in dander. You sleep 8 hours every night, make sure you sleep in a dander-free zone. 

    In addition, wash dog toys frequently to remove dried saliva, a source of allergen. Cat owners should wear a mask when cleaning the cat box as the urine is rich in allergy-causing protein. 

    BTW - Many people seem to think there are hypoallergenic dogs, but the American Kennel Club (AKC) says that no dog is 100% hypoallergenic

    However, there may be one saving grace for those who’d love to own a dog, but don’t want the symptoms. There are actually dog breeds that are less allergenic. Read more about the Best 9 Dog Breeds for People With Allergies?

    If you are moving into a home or apartment where the previous owner had pets, you should check out How to Remove Pet Allergens from your New Home for more tips.

    So now you know what pet dander is and how to get rid of it. See, with a little work, you can live with pets and pet allergy. 

    Wishing you the best of health

    The Allergy Store 

    Allergy elimination is about eliminating the allergy-causing substance in your home the best you can. Once you do this, you may be able to eliminate the need for all the medications and doctor visits. For additional information please click here to download your free copy of" You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living.