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Health and Pets

Updated on January 14, 2014
Smiling Female with Little Puppy
Smiling Female with Little Puppy | Source
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Many people who own pets are unaware that pets may affect their health or shorten their lives. Pets may have allergens that cause people to become debilitated after years of repeated exposure. Pets may harbor diseases that are incurable or have serious impact on our health

Hair Dog vs. Fur Dogs

People with allergies to pets “pet allergens” are usually advised to get hypoallergenic pets. An allergen is an antigen or substance that can cause an allergic reaction. Hypoallergenic pets are those pets that are supposed to be less likely to trigger allergic reactions in people. Research have shown that there are no hypoallergenic pets.

Some people believe that Hair dogs are safe for people with Allergies. However, this is not so. The Fur and hair coat of dogs are made up of the same chemical structures except that the hair is longer than fur. Fur has a thicker texture than hair. Both fur dogs and hair dogs can produce allergens that affect people. The allergens that affect humans are in fact present in the dog’s urine, saliva and in their dander. When these fluids get on your body an allergic reaction may occur.

Moreover, people with allergies are sometimes allergic to other substances such as usually dust, pollen and mold. A hair dog or fur dog may bring these Allergens into our homes. Pets by nature walk in dirt and in dusty areas and get dust mites trapped on their bodies. The pets can then transfer the dust mites to humans who play or interact with them. Pets will also get these allergens such as pollen and mold trapped to their bodies and transfers them to our beds, couches and our clothing.

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Red Blood Python
Red Blood Python | Source

Exotic Pets

In addition to Allergens, Pets may also have parasites in their bodies.

More recently, a patient was admitted to a New Jersey Hospital with a strange condition that caused seizures, memory loss and pain. Upon numerous tests he was found to have parasites in his brain. The patient explained that he has kept a pet snake in his home for the past 5 years. The patient would clean the snake’s cage with his bare hands causing contamination with the snake’s feces. The parasites were able to travel from the feces into the patient’s body and make their way into his brain. The patient ended up in the emergency room with seizures.

An MRI of his brain revealed the harm that was caused by his pet python.

For those who like exotic pets, be mindful that exotic pets may have special care requirements. Try to do as much research on how to care for them before bringing them into your home.


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Asthma

Many children who live in homes with pets such as cats and dogs have asthma. Asthma is a condition that causes inflammation of the airways. During an asthma reaction the airway or bronchioles tighten or go into spasms making it difficult to breathe.

One study that was published by Pediatrics Magazine revealed that children with pet allergies were 24 times more likely to have Asthma than children without pet allergies. [1]

Asthma reactions are triggered by breathing in allergens such as pet dander. Other Allergens such as smoke, dust, chemicals may trigger. It may also be triggered by other factors such as stress, exercise, cold air, chemicals. Some symptoms of asthma are wheezing, coughing, tiredness, weakness, high pulse rate.

Many American households now have people who are forced to take asthma and allergy medicine to survive life with pets. These include pills, inhalers or breathing treatments. People with Asthma usually travel with rescue inhalers that contain medications such as Albuterol. Albuterol is a bronchodilator that provides rapid relief of asthma symptoms that may come on suddenly.

People with Asthma, hypertension, stroke, diabetes have a significantly lower life expectancy and Quality-adjusted life expectancy. [2] QALE is a summary measure that combines mortality (the likelihood of dying) and health-related quality of life across different stages of life.


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Asthma leads to loss of excessive days from school and work

Children with Asthma have a higher rate of absence from schools than children without Asthma. Absence impacts ability to learn and is a reliable predictor of school dropout. [3] In California alone, 25% of children aged 5-17 missed one day of school due to asthma. [4] With pets as part of the family causing constant exposure to allergens, parents are required to find a way to deal with Asthma symptoms as opposed to keeping children home from school. Parents should discuss with their doctors a treatment plan that can be shared with teachers that include provision of extra inhalers that can be left with the school nurse

In 2008, Asthma led to 14.2 Million absent work days in adults. [5]

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Multiple Sclerosis

Experts have found a link between Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and exposure to pets such as cats. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. MS causes symptoms such as memory loss, muscle weakness, problems with coordination, balance and visual disturbance. Recent studies have shown that house hold pets may cause MS. In a study of 49 patients with MS, 33 patients had a cat or a dog in the home within one year prior to the onset of symptoms. [2].

Washing Dog
Washing Dog | Source

How to Stay Healthy

If you must live with pets, you should do everything possible to keep yourself allergen free or safe. Purchase and use air filters. An Air filter will help purify the air and remove allergens. Buy a small particulate or high efficiency Particulate Air Filter (HEPA). This type of filter removes larger or smaller particles with higher efficiency. Vacuum carpets daily or remove them from the home. Carpets will hold pet dander as well as dust. Keep pets off furniture. Pets will leave their dander, dust an other allergen on furniture. Wash hands frequently. Dirty hands will transfer allergens from the bodies pets or transfer allergens that are left on surfaces. Keep pets well groomed and prevent overgrowth of hair or fur. Bathe pets at least twice per week. Use gloves when washing pets or handling their feces. Keep pets vaccinated and try not to miss their routine checkups. Do not allow pets to eat from pots and plates that the family uses. Do not share bath or hand towels with pets. Keep pets out of the bedroom.

For those who take allergy medications, make sure that allergy medications are not missed. Steroid medications should be taken as prescribed to relieve inflammation of the bronchial tubes. You should always keep your fast acting bronchodilator such as a prescribed inhaler close by or on your person. If you are still having symptoms while taking Allergy medications, your allergy medication may not be working. Ask your doctor to adjust or evaluate your allergy medications.

Not having pets in your home is the surest way to avoid triggers from pet allergens.

REFERENCES


  1. USA today. Health: Avoid Pets, Avoid Asthma. Available at: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2001-03-05-asthma-pets.htm
  2. Haomiao, Jia., Thompson, William W., Zack, Matthew M,. The Effects of Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma, Heart Disease, and Stroke on Quality-Adjusted Life Expectancy. Science Direct. Volume 16.1 p. 140-147. Jan-Feb Available at : 2013http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1098301512039307

3. A possible Association between House Pets and MS. Lancet 1977 May 7;1(8019):980-2.Available at : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/67471.

4. Mooney SD., Sterling, DA., Figgs, L., Castro M. Asthma Status and Severity Affects Missed School days. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16457681

5. California Breathing. School Absences Due to Asthma. Available at: http://www.californiabreathing.org/asthma-data/factsheets/school-absences-fact-sheet

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    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Thank you for dropping by my hub Ubani. Yesm staying safe and healthy is the primary goal.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 3 years ago from Lagos

      You are right, Cecile. Care has to be taken when conducting a pet. Staying safe and healthy should be the prime goal. This well-detailed piece nailed it.

      good job!

    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Thank you so much Eiddwen. I hope the information presented is helpful to others!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A great hub which I know will benefit many.

      Voted up and shared.

      Eddy.

    • cecileportilla profile image
      Author

      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Thank you for reviewing this hub DDE. Pets are indeed a great responsibility!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Pets are all nice to have but are greater responsibilities and with your helpful suggestions it sounds simpler.

    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi KarenLorenzo

      Just needed to emphasize that most often people don't know that they have problems or conditions until months down the road after constant exposure.

      In the case of MS there is no vaccine to prevent this condition. The diagnosis often comes years later after they have already been exposed.

    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Read your link. Sounds interesting! Maybe more can be done for pets that are brought into people's homes. However, even if they are screened prior, it is unlikely that much can be done when they are out of that professional environment . Again, there is still that saliva element as well as the concern regarding MS that is still being researched.

    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      That is good to know. I have seen many pets brought into nursing homes that I have worked in over the years but was never aware of that there was an actual screening process! Thanks for sending me the link!

    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi Karen Lorenzo:

      True about long term facilities and about allergic rhinitis. However, pets bring in a lot of other items from outside that people are allergic to. I have seen many homes with several family members taking asthma medication and getting routine steroid shots after pets are brought into their lives. I understand the psychological bond between human and their pets. However, there are a lot of other things in life that gives us great psychological comfort and pleasure that are really bad for us.

    • cecileportilla profile image
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      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi Letters to Scott:

      Thanks for stopping by my Hub!. Yes, there has been a discussion of a link between MS and cats for many years! Pretty sure they are doing more research in this area.

    • profile image

      Letters to Scott 3 years ago from USA

      Wow... a lot of thought provoking information here. The link between cats and MS is something I had never heard about before.

      Very interesting, and well written!

    • cecileportilla profile image
      Author

      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Thanks merej

      Thanks for stopping by my Hub. No dispute that pets are good for us psychologically! But there are other health risks that we often don't think about.

    • merej99 profile image

      Meredith Loughran 3 years ago from Florida

      Hi cecileportilla - I have to say that this is the very first article I've ever read that said having pets is NOT good for you. I was actually pretty surprised and very nearly rejected the idea of it ** BUT ** you make excellent points and your citations are great. It's refreshing to see an alternate view. Voting up! :) Mere