What is a Pet Allergy?

Three out of five of all households in the U.S. have pets, with over 161 million of these pets being cats and dogs.

Animals without fur, like reptiles, amphibians and fish, do not shed dander so they have less of a chance of triggering an allergic reaction. But any mammal, like cats and dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, and hamsters, etc. shed dead skin cells called dander which can trigger an allergy.

Besides dander, people with pet allergies can also be allergic to the proteins that are present in pet saliva, urine and feces.

Pet Allergy Sources

Pet dander and other pet allergens may linger in the air for a longer time than other allergens. This is because they are microscopic and jagged in shape, making it easy for them to become airborne and stick to furniture, bedding, fabrics and even be carried on items into and out of the home.

How Pet Allergies Affect Health

People suffering from pet allergies will have symptoms consistent with swollen nasal passages. This includes a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and shortness of breath. Coming into physical contact with pet dander can cause contact dermatitis, or a skin rash, hives or triggers a person’s asthma.

How to Protect Against Pet Allergies

The best way to manage a pet allergy is to minimize exposure and avoid contact. If being around the animal can’t be avoided, you can prevent the pet dander from lingering by ensuring all furniture, carpets and clothing are cleaned immediately and frequently after contact. Wash your hands, or even bath, if you have had direct contact with the animal. Brush your pet in a closed off area, away from the person with asthma. You can also create a pet free zone and use air cleaners to decrease the amount of allergens in the air.

If your symptoms still aren’t controlled, talk to your health care provider about medications. Many over the counter antihistamines and decongestants will do the trick, but in severe cases corticosteroids or leukotriene modifiers may be helpful. Talking to an allergist and getting an allergy test is the best way to determine what course of action you should take.

Page last updated: May 17, 2023

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