How to Improve Indoor Air Quality with Pets

Pets are part of the family, so we just need to work smarter to keep everyone healthy even when one family member releases more allergens than all the others combined (ahem…)!   Here are the allergens we need to be aware of with pets:

  • Fur…not!  Actually, pet hair is not an allergen according to the AAFA, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.  Pet hair can carry allergens like dander, urine and saliva.  Another myth:  there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” pet!
  • Dander, tiny bits of skin and associated microorganisms that live on it
  • Saliva
  • Urine and feces

The AAFA have a number of suggestions to cut down on allergies associated with pets, such as removing the pet from the bedroom, and asking someone without an allergy to brush the pet outdoors and change litter boxes (some of these are more feasible than others!!)  We think that the following suggestions are the most helpful:

  • Even if you have a non-shedding pet, their dander can still be an allergen.  Invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and use it often, and use an N95 mask while doing so and afterwards.  Anyone else in the home at the time should also wear a mask during and after vacuuming, because it stirs up dander and dust from surfaces into the air.   Here are some vacuum cleaners we recommend: 
  • Brushing your furry pets definitely helps them to shed hair and dander in a controlled way (preferably outside or during bath-time!)  You can check with your vet for their recommendations, and here are some pet brushes that are above average:
    • Furminator brushes have been reviewed by many to drastically reduce loose fur flying around the house.  The website helps you choose the right brush for your dog or cat, but the products are found on many sites.
    • Hartz Groomer’s Best Combo Brush is two-sided to allow you to detangle and remove longer hair, and slick down shorter hair. 
    • Chris Christensen has a full range of dog products which allow you to shop by breed (Azawakh, anyone?)
  • Bathing dogs and cats on a regular basis helps to keep their skin and coats healthy–check with your vet for bathing frequency and products, and check out this lineup of natural dog shampoos.  After all, if you are concerned about VOCs and toxins in your personal care items, your pets deserve the same care!
  • Pet Urine and feces…happen in the house sometimes.  Apart from training them to use your toilet (yes it’s possible), cleanup is a fact of pet owner life.  Fortunately sanitizing and deodorizing cleaners have evolved and do not have to over-scent your home to neutralize the odor.  Consider moving an Air Angel unit closer to the site of the accident (or where the litter box is stationed) to eliminate any residual odors.  Here are some other options that definitely help!
    • Colorfil manufactures HVAC filters that are especially helpful to pet owners, who deal with ammonia smells and related chemicals in urine.  The filter material turns from a magenta pink when clean, to a dull yellow when dirty, due to citric acid compounds that react with contaminants.  The company began to create innovative filter systems for NASA spacesuits in 2016 and moved on cabin air filters for vehicles and HVAC filters.
    • For natural, non-toxic cleaners that remove stains and odors, check out this extensive list.
    • Cat litters are quite varied but you should consider some major toxins in this product category.  Sodium bentonite, for example, is the clumping agent used in many litters, yet it is toxic when ingested by cats.  Dust created by some clay or silica-based litter is harmful for people and cats. Here is a list of natural litters with less chemicals.    
    • Another solution to the cat litter odor problem can be used with any type of litter because of a genius invention: a litter box with air filtration!  This one by BioStrike is very sturdy and the filters require changing every 3 months. 

I think you’ll find that the “positive reinforcement” of a cleaner home and easier breathing is worth the effort when it comes to fighting pet allergens!