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June 20, 1994

Yours, Mine and Ours?

Phoenix, AZ-"Love me, love my dog." It was St. Bernard who first uttered those words, though he probably never imagined they'd be taken so seriously by contemporary couples who approach the altar with Fido in tow. Of the roughly 741,000 couples who exchange marriage vows this summer, 185,000 of them will probably have a pet allergy of one kind or another-and an aversion to four-legged friends. For these individuals, "I do" may not extend to Fido too. Though this may seem a trivial matter when the caterer needs to be changed and the florist has gotten far too creative for your budget, Cele Lalli, Editor of Modern Bride Magazine, suggests that couples consider their furry family member first.

your, mine, ours"It's a serious problem if one of them doesn't want the pet around. If they don't agree, it's going to be an elemental problem in the relationship from the beginning," Lalli maintains. "There's going to be resentment from both sides and in the end it may be one partner and pet against the other."

Like so many other details that need to be worked out when preparing to enter marriage, a pet conflict is one thing couples must tackle up front. Partners with allergies may have an objection to the animal because of the discomfort they associate with the pet. "The best thing is to deal with it directly. It's a terrible imposition on the person who's allergic. When it comes to health versus a pet you have to make a tough decision. You can work it out or choose either the pet or the person," Lalli states. "You need to say, 'I have this pet I love dearly and I know you have a problem with it. Is there any way we can make this arrangement work without adversely effecting your health?' You can't expect that its going to change or fix itself once you've gotten married."

Pet allergies can be difficult to contain. Most stem from dander, saliva, urine and a glycoprotein known as Fel d1 that's released from salivary and sebaceous glands located at hair roots. For a couple trying to establish a livable arrangement for pet, bride and groom, the answers can appear limited. An allergist may be able to provide desensitization shots that can cut down on the allergic reaction. Some accommodating spouses have agreed to isolate their pet's activity to specific rooms in the house or make the pet an outdoor animal.

Dr. Jim Humphries, noted television Veterinarian, suggests starting with the basics in a situation where someone in the family has pet allergies. "It's important to reduce the volume of allergens on the animal's fur and skin," he maintains. Although you may think frequent bathing is the answer, over a period of time, frequent bathing tends to dry out the fur and skin, resulting in greater production of dander, scale and flaking than would normally occur. The use of oil-based coat conditioners to combat dryness is ineffective, since the oil in the conditioners actually attracts and collects even more of those things that cause allergies in the first place.

One alternative is a non-toxic grooming product called Allerpet. During three years of laboratory testing and over a year of field testing, the cleanser was proven to provide significant levels of relief to allergy sufferers. The emollient cleanses the animal's coat of dander, saliva and urine antigens and provides the necessary moisturizing and conditioning to prevent aggravation of the situation. Specific formulas are available for cats, dogs and birds at pet shops and vet clinics nationwide.

"With such things as regular grooming, good housekeeping, the use of an electro-static air filter and products like Allerpet, you can reduce airborne allergens to a manageable level," Humphries suggests, noting that while these tactics won't eliminate the allergens altogether, they should reduce them to a level that's tolerable for all involved. "You have to keep up with it though," he cautions, "Being really conscientious for one month isn't going to keep the situation under control."

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