Could your family pet be making you sick? Should you consider rehoming your pet?

01 Nov 2018
Could your family pet be making you sick? Should you consider rehoming your pet?

In Winter, people spending up to 90% of their days inside on average. Research has shown that indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. For people with asthma, indoor air has a material impact on health and quality of life.

People with asthma need to be more aware of what triggers their asthma within the home, which can include the family pet.


Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society, said: “In Ireland, 61% of households own a pet and 90% of these consider the pet a family member. Animals such as cats and dogs often are a huge trigger for many people with asthma, but most animals are also capable of causing asthma symptoms. People are often aware of this, as their pet is a huge part of their day-to-day lives.

“For people who believe their asthma symptoms are triggered by animals, they should see a doctor to get an allergy test as a first step. All identified allergens (tiny particles that cause allergy) should be addressed if they might be a trigger leading to worsening asthma symptoms and/or attacks.  If it turns out that pets are a serious trigger, we recommend people should consider rehoming their pet, if possible, such as housing them outdoors. Anything less is much less effective. That’s not the only action that people can take and our Asthma Friendly Homes campaign, launched today, can really help people improve the quality of air in their homes.”

For people who believe their asthma symptoms are triggered by animals, they should see a doctor to get an allergy test as a first step. 

CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Sarah O’Connor

If rehoming your pet is not an option, you should:

  • Keep your pet away from living areas and the bedroom
  • Keep your pet outside as much as possible
  • Keep your pet away from fabric-covered furniture, rugs and carpets
  • Ensure your pet is properly washed by someone else, who is not allergic (washing is only somewhat effective if done very frequently e.g. twice a week)
  • Use a vacuum suitable for pets regularly - vacuums with a HEPA filter may be more effective for asthma symptoms that regular vacuum cleaners
  • If your pet lives in a cage, clean the cage properly as often as possible
  • Investigate getting an air filter - some people with asthma find these beneficial

For people who find animals trigger their asthma, they have what is commonly known as allergic asthma. Their airways react to proteins in the animal’s dander and this causes the airway to swell, bringing asthma symptoms. One initial way to know if you are allergic to an animal is to see if your asthma symptoms get better when you are away for period of time (on holiday, for example).

It can be really distressing  to discover that your family pet is making your asthma worse - if you find yourself needing any other advice on triggers within your home, call the Asthma Society’s free adviceline on 1800 44 54 64. Our nurses are available with practical advice on how to make your home Asthma Friendly, as well as how to manage your asthma in Winter months.

Dr Marcus Butler, Medical Director of the Asthma Society, said: “Triggers within the home include: pet dander, dust, mould, cleaning products, cooking appliances and smoke. Many people with asthma need to take their triggers more seriously as they can cause worsening asthma control, which can lead to asthma attacks. For some, as asthma attack can prove fatal. A lot of people don’t know that pet dander (microscopic particles shed from the pet’s skin, irrespective of whether or not hair is shed) is a trigger for them, as you can develop such allergy at any stage of your life.”

“I’ve seen lots of patients develop an asthma trigger in their later years. It’s important to realise that thorough cleaning and air filtration approaches are only really effective if the animal is removed from the house, as it only takes microscopic amounts of ongoing exposure to allergens to result in an unaltered allergic problem. We hope our Asthma Friendly Homes campaign will help people to identify and minimise the triggers that surround them in their own homes.”

The Asthma Society has teamed up with Dyson and is launching its Asthma Friendly Homes campaign to help people understand what the most common triggers are within the home and what they can do to combat them. 

A new Asthma Friendly Homes leaflet is now available on with hints and tips to help people make their homes asthma friendly. Dyson are also giving away an “asthma-bundle” to highlight this campaign which can be found on the Asthma Society’s Facebook and Twitter pages – the competition prize is a Dyson V10 total clean along with a Dyson Pure Cool Desk.

Paul Dawson, Vice President for Dyson Health and Beauty, said: “At Dyson, we develop machines for real people and real homes, creating technology that works well in the test-lab but, more importantly, doing what they’re expected to do in a real-world setting. To clean the air at home, a purifier needs more than a filter. It needs to automatically sense pollution, capture gases and ultrafine particles, and project clean air to every corner of the room. The Dyson Pure Cool™ purifying fan does all of this, making it the only purifier fan to clean a whole family room properly.”