Is Pet Dander in Air Ducts Affecting Your Indoor Air Quality?

Mariel Loveland
Written by Mariel Loveland
Updated December 17, 2021
father and son playing with dog
Photo: bernardbodo / Adobe Stock


  • Pet dander is a common allergen that spreads through your HVAC system.

  • About 30% of allergy sufferers have pet allergies.

  • Pet dander affects indoor air quality by clogging your HVAC system’s air filter.

  • Air duct cleaning and changing your air filter once a month can mitigate pet dander.

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For most pet owners, pets are a prized member of the family—but that family member can cause an absolute mess. We’re not just talking about muddy pawprints tracked across the carpet or the graveyard of chewed-up shoes. Pet dander in ducts affects your home’s indoor air quality, which can be a (literal) headache for allergy sufferers. The good news is that professional air duct cleaning can help reduce symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about pet dander and your HVAC system.

A Brief Explanation of Pet Dander

Pet dander refers to the tiny flecks of skin shed by your pet. Think of it as dandruff, only you can’t see it. Dander is microscopic, but all animals with hair, feathers, and fur produce dander—including humans. Yes, this means your dog can be allergic to you. 

Dander is a common allergen. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, about 30% of allergy sufferers have pet allergies. Twice as many people are allergic to cats as dogs, but triggers tend to vary. Some people might be less sensitive to dander but have an allergic reaction when they come in contact with pet saliva. Others are less sensitive to certain breeds (these breeds are often labeled hypoallergenic, but there’s no true hypoallergenic dog or cat breed). 

Effects of Pet Dander in Your House

Pet dander is so small and lightweight that it remains suspended in the air longer than other indoor allergens like cockroach dander and dust mites. Airborn pet dander can make its way into your air ducts and all HVAC system types, spreading from room to room. It can stick to bedding, furniture, carpets, and clothing. This can trigger pet allergy symptoms, like:

  • Chest tightness, wheezing, and other asthma side effects

  • Inflamed nasal passages, congestion, sneezing, and runny nose

  • Itchy and watery eyes

  • Eczema and rashes

  • Lethargy and fatigue

Since pet dander is food for dust mites—another common indoor allergen—it can trigger a double-whammy of allergy symptoms. The more pet dander around your home, the more dust mites thrive.

How Pet Dander in Air Ducts Affects Indoor Air Quality

dog running around the house playing
Przemyslaw Iciak/Adobe Stock

Pet dander in air ducts can lower your indoor air quality—and here’s how. Airborne pet dander, pet hair, and other indoor allergens make their way into your home’s ductwork. From there, the HVAC system circulates pet allergens in the air your family breathes. If you don’t regularly clean your ducts, pet dander can clog the air filter. This causes a myriad of problems like:

  • Poor indoor air quality

  • Increased allergy symptoms

  • Trapped pet odor, which can spread throughout your home

  • Stress on your HVAC system, which leads to higher maintenance costs

  • Decreased energy efficiency, which leads to higher energy costs

Signs That Pet Dander Is Circulating Through Your Ventilation System

If you suffer from a pet allergy, increased allergy symptoms are the first give-away that pet dander is circulating in your duct system. Otherwise, look for signs of a clogged air filter. This includes:

  • Unusually high energy bills

  • Your home isn’t cooling down, even though the air conditioner is on

  • Overheating HVAC system

  • Frozen air conditioner evaporator coil 

The average homeowner should change their air filters every three months. Pet owners should change their air filter every month to compensate for pet dander in air ducts. They’ll also need to schedule more frequent air duct cleanings and biannual HVAC inspections.

How Air Duct Cleaning Can Help Pet Allergies

Dirty ducts stress your HVAC system, but air duct cleaning is particularly beneficial for people with pet allergies. Professional duct cleaning services use vacuums with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that trap pet dander and remove allergens rather than just blowing allergens around. The less pet dander in your ducts, the less dander that’s spreading around your home, exacerbating your allergy symptoms. 

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends hiring an air duct cleaning service near you for a professional duct cleaning every three to five years. If you have a pet, you may want to have additional cleanings.

Other Ways to Reduce Pet Dander in Your Home

dog getting a bath in the tub
Photo: food and animals/ Adobe Stock

Air duct cleaning isn’t the only way to reduce pet dander in your home. If you suffer from pet allergies, you should also:

  • Regularly bathe your pet

  • Check your house cleaning checklist (particularly fabric surfaces)

  • Steam-clean carpets

  • Install HEPA filters in your HVAC system

  • Install air purifiers with HEPA filters

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