What is Pet Dander?
Pet dander comes from skin cells that are shed by animals with fur or feathers – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, etc. Dander can trigger an allergy.
Animals without fur, like reptiles, amphibians and fish, do not shed dander so they have less of a chance of triggering an allergic reaction.
Pet dander is the most common source of a pet allergy, but people can also be allergic to the proteins that are present in pet saliva, urine and feces.
Pet Dander 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 Dander Affects Health
People suffering from pet allergies will have symptoms consistent with hay fever. 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 trigger a person’s asthma.
How to Protect Against Pet Dander
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 reduce exposure by keeping the pet(s) off of furniture and out of the bedroom(s) of anyone with an allergy. Clean furniture, carpets and clothing immediately and frequently after contact. Wash your hands, or even bathe, 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.
Learn about pet dander and how to reduce pet allergens in the home below.
Page last updated: November 2, 2023