Are you allergic to your rabbit? For those who've always wanted to bring a floppy-eared friend into their lives, few things are worse than finding that being around the new bunny causes sneezing and other problems. Just like you can be allergic to cats and dogs, it is possible to be allergic to bunnies. This type of allergy is one of the less common pet allergies. It is still not fun. In most cases, symptoms of a pet allergy are much like the symptoms of hay fever. You may find that being near your bunny causes your nose to run as you start sneezing and your eyes start watering. In rare cases, more serious symptoms such as wheezing and asthma may even happen.
The main reason for rabbit allergies is the same reason for any other pet allergy – a reaction to pet dander. This is the dead flakes of skin that your pet sheds. Furry animals such as bunnies release a lot of fluff, which means that there can be a lot of sneezing if you have an allergy to the fluff. If you have a family member who's allergic to pets, there's a good chance you or your kids may have an allergy, too. As annoying as allergies are (especially when you want to cuddle that bunny so badly!), you don't have to lose hope completely. There are a few ways that you can deal with your allergies without losing your beloved bunny.
In this guide, we share some advice and tips to help you cope if you think you are allergic to your rabbit.
While severe respiratory allergic reactions to rabbits are actually fairly uncommon, mild allergies are frequently listed as one of the top reasons rabbits are surrendered to shelters and rescues. The proteins in the saliva left on the fur after your rabbit grooms himself is often what causes the irritation - not actually the fur itself. Taking steps to reduce the chances of suffering allergy symptoms before they begin will help you and your rabbit peacefully coexist.
Is your rabbit really causing allergies?
Your rabbit probably brought some baggage when he moved in, and it has nothing to do with the doe next door. While allergic reactions to rabbits are certainly possible, the environment is sometimes overlooked as the cause for itchy skin, wheezing, runny noses, and watery eyes. Rule out possible culprits through a process of elimination before blaming your rabbit. Timothy hay in particular is a common allergen. Try switching to orchard hay or oat hay instead and see if symptoms resolve. Use dust-free paper bedding in the litter box. Keep the guilty-as-charged supplies stored in a closet or room that is not frequently accessed. You can lessen allergies to hay and bedding by investing in air filtration systems (like HEPA filtration units).
How to cope with rabbit allergies
Reactions can still be minimize, even if allergy tests confirm the rabbit himself is triggering symptoms. Bathing rabbits is not recommended, but brushing or wiping him down with a slightly damp cloth can help. Use baby gates to restrict his access to certain rooms, like the bedroom. This way you will have a "safe haven" when allergy symptoms are the worst. Simple cleaning measures can make a world of difference, too. Clean the rabbit's areas especially often, and dispose of soiled litter and hay immediately. Vacuum carpets, dust surfaces, and sweep the dust bunnies (pun intended) under the bed. Don't forget the obvious! Wash your hands after handling your rabbit and his baggage, and be sure to avoid touching your eyes.
Taking it a hop further
If diligent cleaning and restricting your rabbit's access to the whole house isn't helping as much as you'd like, ask your doctor about adding a daily allergy pill to your routine. Because allergies are a result of the immune system becoming overstimulated, steroid nasal sprays can help when they suppress the local immune system in the nose before a reaction begins. Allergy shots can be effective for those with allergies to self-cleaning animals like rabbits. These shots essentially desensitize your body to the substances that trigger your specific allergic reactions. You may even be able to provide your rabbit's own fur to suppress allergies.
For so many of us, the love for our furry companions outweighs the struggle and inconvenience of allergies. Sometimes we find ourselves in a tough spot. Perhaps a new baby is showing symptoms of pet allergies, or a chronically ill family member has started to suffer. If hay and bedding changes don't help, take a cue from your rabbit. Amp up the cleaning measures (both for yourself and the environment). If you still can't control the symptoms, talk to a doctor who understands your commitment to your rabbit about alternative treatment options.
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