Pet Allergy Overview
Almost 62% of U.S. households have pets, and more than 161 million of these pets are cats and dogs. Unfortunately, millions of pet owners have an allergy (allergic rhinitis) to their animals.
The proteins found in a pet’s dander, skin flakes, saliva and urine can cause an allergic reaction or aggravate asthma symptoms in some people. Also, pet hair or fur can collect pollen, mold spores and other outdoor allergens.
An allergen is a normally harmless substance that triggers the immune system to overreact in people with allergies. This response can cause allergy symptoms such as sniffling, sneezing and itchiness and watery eyes.
Contrary to popular opinion, there are no truly “hypoallergenic breeds” of dogs or cats. Allergic dander in cats and dogs is not affected by length of hair or fur, nor by the amount of shedding.
Giving up a pet in order to prevent allergy symptoms isn’t always necessary. An allergist / immunologist has specialized training and experience to accurately diagnose your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help you or your child manage allergy symptoms and potentially keep your furry friends.
Pet Allergy Symptoms & Diagnosis
Pet allergy symptoms appear during or shortly after exposure to the animal. These symptoms may linger long after the animal is gone. This is because the dander remains in the air, on furniture or on your clothing.
If you experience the following symptoms after being near a dog or cat, you may have an allergy:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Runny nose
Additionally, contact with a pet may trigger skin allergy symptoms including itchy skin or raised, red patches (hives). Pets can also trigger asthma symptoms, causing wheezing, difficulty breathing or chest tightness.
You or your doctor may suspect you have a pet allergy, but allergy testing performed by an allergist / immunologist is the best method to diagnose exactly what you are allergic to and to develop a personalized plan to manage your symptoms.