Health and Pets
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.
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.
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. 
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.  QALE is a summary measure that combines mortality (the likelihood of dying) and health-related quality of life across different stages of life.
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.  In California alone, 25% of children aged 5-17 missed one day of school due to asthma.  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. 
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. .
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.
- USA today. Health: Avoid Pets, Avoid Asthma. Available at: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2001-03-05-asthma-pets.htm
- 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