Are Air Purifiers Safe For Pets?

For many pet parents, sensory adaptation is the phenomenon that acclimates them to pet odors in the home. And it can apply to any odors in our environment that we get used to after a long period of day-to-day exposure. Consequently, if you have a dog, you may not detect that infamous "stinky" or wet dog smell at all, or at least to the same degree a visitor to your home might.

woman and cat looking at air purifier in living room
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Similarly, if you have a cat or two, it's the odor emanating from the litter boxes that may affront their senses. Of course, these odors are especially apparent to those who don't have pets of their own.

It's only after a week or so away from home that we may realize the true extent of these odors, and often wanting to get rid of that odor and improve air quality prompts the purchase of an air purifier. But are air purifiers safe for pets?

Air purifiers with filter technology are not only safe for pets, but they boost your pet's comfort level, says Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, particularly for brachycephalic, or "squashed-face" dogs bred that have short muzzles like English and French bulldogs, many of whom have trouble breathing, dogs and cats with other respiratory difficulties or allergies, immune-suppressed pets, and sick or elderly pets. Avoid air ionizers which may produce ozone, especially if you have a small pet such as a bird or rabbit, says Fresh Air Guru.

The best type of air purifier for all pets is a "three-in-one" unit, which features activated carbon filters (also called charcoal) which are porous and processed to have absorption properties, a HEPA filter which eliminates finer microscopic particles, and a pre-filter which is normally attached to a carbon filter and captures dust and larger particles. Air purifiers are also safer and more effective than chemicals and air fresheners that only mask odor and do not freshen the air.

air purifier in room next to window
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How do air purifiers boost your pet's comfort level?

In the course of a day, we all inhale literally hundreds of invisible and potentially toxic pollutants— more than 1,500—right inside our own home. That's a lot of formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds or VOCs, airborne bacteria and viruses, lead, fragrances, mold and mildew, flame-retardant chemicals, dander and allergens, tobacco smoke including second and third-hand smoke, airborne particles, and other contaminants.

You may have thought of air pollution as something in the outdoor environment. But, in fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has discovered that indoor air quality contains two to five times and potentially as much as 100 times more contaminants than the air outdoors.

Imagine the impact of any one or a combination of these potential toxins on your pet who spends significantly more time in the home than other family members, sustains more consistent exposure levels, who has less body mass, and a more sensitive sense of smell.

So, while your pets may add a little eau de pew to your home, there's far more dangerous particulates and nasty substances in the air they are inhaling. Do yourself and your beloved pet a favor and invest in a good-quality air purifier that not only removes pet odors, but also airborne toxins, dust mite matter, pet dander, spores, and other allergens and contaminants.

Pets that benefit most from an air purifier

An air purifier promotes your pet's overall respiratory wellness, and Dr. Becker absolutely recommends one if your pet has brachycephalic syndrome, asthma, a dust mite hypersensitivity, dust mite irritation, collapsing trachea, or persistent reverse sneezing.

Pug and French Bulldog Looking Into The Camera
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Selecting an air purifier

Air purifiers that feature HEPA filter, pre-filter, and activated carbon filters are generally considered effective units for the home with a variety of brands available. The units are based on the size of the area you will be treating, from 150 square feet to well over 500 square feet.

Depending on your needs and the space, you may want features such as quiet operation, night lights, and electronic controls. And the physical size and placement, for example, a table or floor model, will be considerations when purchasing an air purifier.

Also, make sure the filters are replaceable. Some, like the Germ Guardian, feature an ultraviolet germ killing feature that provides safe and ozone-free elimination of germs and microbes.

Should I avoid ionizers to purify the air?

An ionizer is designed to knock particles out of the air, rather than trapping them in a filter as in the HEPA technology. The safety of this technology has been questioned in recent years by environmental groups and consumers. The units may generate ozone, a gas known to be harmful when inhaled by humans.

If you're considering an ionizer, carefully research before investing in one, and keep in mind that no amount of ozone will be OK for small animals like birds, rabbits, hamsters, reptiles, etc. and questionable at best for dogs and cats, too.

Air ionizers use ion technology to charge negative ions that bind to harmful particulates floating in the air. Two different kinds exist; electrostatic precipitators which health professionals warn against, says Fresh Air Guru and ion generators, both of which produce ozone but at differing levels.

Ozone causes respiratory issues at too high levels. The gas reacts negatively to various molecules in your respiratory system, thus increasing the risk of respiratory problems when inhaled. Symptoms may include throat irritation, wheezing, a tightness in the chest, and coughing. Prolonged exposure can damage the lungs permanently. These are enough good reasons not to buy an ionizer air purifier if you have pets.

Conclusion

Air purifiers are safe and even beneficial for pets, improving their respiratory wellness. However, be sure to avoid ionizers, as the ozone they produce is not safe for pets, especially small pets.