Although any dry climate can cause this problem, cold weather can make life uncomfortable for pets and their owners.
If you or your pet suffer from allergies this time of year, there is something you can do. Image credit: scl/scx.hu
Cold weather can cause indoor humidity to drop dramatically and cause a significant increase in allergies, dry skin, cracked paws and more.
The reason for this is that when indoor humidity drops, a lot of the dust, dust mites, dander, hair and germs that were being 'held down' to a degree by that extra moisture (too heavy to become airborne) are now light enough to become airborne and begin to circulate throughout the home, creating a big dose of allergens and irritants that weren't in the air before.
When the weather changes, this can mean dry skin, cracked paws and more for your pet. Image credit: Ali Brasi/sxc.hu
And of course, dry air causes dry skin, paws etc., which isn't good, either. And it's true that dry air isn't always the problem when it comes to pet and human allergies, but it can be very helpful, however, to at least rule out dry or polluted air as a cause of the allergies by following a few easy steps. That way, if dry air is the problem, you can most likely eliminate it--if not, you know more about what direction to take next.
Figuring out whether dry air or polluted indoor air could be causing allergies for you or your pet can be done in 3 easy steps:
1) check your indoor humidity on 3 different days, at different times of the day, during a week and take an average of those 3 readings,
2) if humidity is under 30% on average, you'll probably need a humidifier, and
3) if humidity readings are in the 30-40% range, dry air probably isn't the issue and you probably don't need a humidifier.
When indoor humidity drops, dust, dust mites, dander, hair and germs that were being 'held down' by that extra moisture are now light enough to become airborne. Image credit: Ivan Ska/sxc.hu
The next step you'll want to take, whether you get a humidifier or not, is to make sure to vacuum on a weekly basis and use a quality air purifier with enough output capacity to cycle all of the air in a given room in less than 5 minutes.
If air is too dry, you have more airborne dust, dust mites, dander and particles and you'll need to remove those pollutants. If the indoor humidity is high, you can still have a lot of dust and dander in the air, but you'll probably have an extra amount of mold spores and bacteria, since they feed on that excess moisture and multiply in your air ducts.
Sometimes, just running the air conditioner too much can cause air to dry out below acceptable levels, since air conditioner coils cool the air by a condensation process which removes water from the air. Running the A/C on heat for too long on a regular basis can dry out the air, too.
Do try to keep the air as clean as possible, since dust mites are one of the strongest allergens on the planet and each gram of house dust contains an average of 200 live dust mites--and no one, pet or human, needs to breathe live dust mites.
So if you live in a cold or dry climate and find that your pet (or you) have chronic allergies, you can easily fix that problem with humidifiers, dehumidifier, air purifiers, and watching how you use your A/C system. This will help you avoid endless trips to the vet or doctor and the extra expense of allergy medications.