Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic To Dogs Cats Or Other Animals
About 7 out of 10 of households in the United States have a pet.1 But many people have animal allergies, especially people who have other allergies or asthma. Allergies to cats and dogs affect 10 to 20% of the worlds population.2
Allergies to pets with fur, such as cats and dogs, are common. Even rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, and horses can cause allergy symptoms. People can also be allergic to animals with feathers .
When you have a pet allergy, you are not allergic to the pets hair, fur, or feathers. You are allergic to the protein that is found in the pets dander saliva, and urine. The hair, fur, or feathers collect the dander. It can also carry other allergens like dust mites, mold, and pollen. When those proteins get into your airways, eyes, nose, mouth, or on your skin, it triggers allergy symptoms.
Do Air Purifiers Work For Pet Allergies
Air purifiers can reduce airborne allergens, but you do need to get a purifier with a HEPA filter to remove more and smaller particles. However, an air purifier is not a fix-all and cannot remove all pet dander or fur. Also, they are expensive and require regular maintenance and new filters to help.
Are Certain Pets More Allergenic Than Others
Not really. And even though some cat and dog breeds are advertised as hypoallergenic meaning they don’t trigger pet allergies that’s a myth. All furry animals shed dander and the ones that go outside, like dogs, carry in other allergens like pollen and mold.
Here is a specific breakdown by pet:
Dogs. While doodle mixes, poodles and other short- or curly-haired breeds have a reputation for being better for allergy-prone families, that’s not the case. These dogs still shed dander and give slobbery kisses. But some kids with pet allergies may be more sensitive to longhaired dogs since all that hair accumulates other allergens .
Cats. All cats can set off a pet allergy, no matter what their breed. Cat dander is smaller and “stickier” than dog dander, which means it can travel through the air for great distances and stick to a surface longer. And because cats are always licking their fur, your child has a higher chance of coming into contact with cat saliva, another pet allergen.
Hamsters, gerbils, and other rodents. These are also not recommended as pets for kids with pet allergies. Since they live in cages, these animals can’t really avoid stepping in their own pee or poop and that’s bound to cause pet allergy symptoms when your child plays or cuddles with them.
- Wash your hands after touching the animal.
- Never kiss the pet.
- Keep the animal in a cage or tank, away from the kitchen or dining room.
- Only grown-ups are allowed to clean the cage .
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Hypoallergenic Dog And Cats
There has been much debate on the existence of hypoallergenic pets. As noted, of the identified and named specific dog protein allergens, there is none that dominates all others to the extent that Fel d 1 does in cats. Even in cats, there are still 8 specific allergenic proteins that would need to be targeted. The elimination of just Fel d 1 would only help a minority of cat allergic patients who are mono-sensitized to only Fel d 1. Similarly, in dogs, there is concurrently co-sensitization with other dog component allergens most notably Can f 2 with Can f 1. To date, there is no truly hypoallergenic cat nor dog since all of the protein allergens would need to be inactivated.
Why Do Allergic Reactions Sometimes Manifest As Skin Rashes
Heres the thing: The link between allergies and skin rashes depends on the type of allergic reaction youre dealing with. Different allergens cause symptoms in different ways.
Sometimes, allergy-induced skin rashes are caused by eating certain foods, Benjamin Ungar, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF. This involves a classic immediate allergic reaction.
A quick explainer: Your immune systems job is to protect you from potentially harmful microorganisms its your bodys first line of defense. But sometimes, those immune cells mistake typically benign substances, like food, as a threat. This sparks a false alarm, causing those cells to attack the invaders and produce antibodies called immunoglobulin , according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology . These antibodies trigger the release of chemicals, one of which is called histamine, causing allergy symptoms that develop soon after eating the offending food, according to a 2021 study published in Cells.1 Histamine can affect many areas of the body, including the lungs, digestive tract, heart, and skin. Most people with food allergies will experience multiple symptoms, but when hives are involved , its because histamine is released in the skin cells, which triggers a chain reaction that ultimately ends with inflammation and swelling.
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Your Face Feels Swollen & Slightly Painful
Another sign of allergies that you might overlook is your face feeling kind of swollen, puffy, and sightly painful. This can happen when you’re very congested. Sometimes that congestion doesn’t come out as a sniffly nose instead it just causes head congestion that leaves you feeling swollen, foggy, and kind of odd.
What Are You Actually Allergic To
You may not be a fan of the fur balls that get left around your house, but that is not what is causing your allergies. Their dander, which is made up of dead skin that originates from around their sweat glands, can float in the air and get attached to particles of dust. Their saliva is made up of proteins such as albumin or Felis domesticus 1, which transfer from your cats tongue to their skin as they groom themselves. These proteins can then transfer to your skin when petting them or they can stick to dander and get inhaled.
Your cats urine includes the same Felis domesticus 1 protein which when inhaled can trigger an allergic reaction.
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Where Are Pet Allergens Found
Cat and dog allergens are everywhere. Cat allergens are especially sticky. Pet allergens can be found in homes, classrooms, workplaces, and other places where pets have never been. This is because people can carry pet allergens on their clothing.
Pet allergens can collect on furniture and other surfaces. The allergens may cling to walls, fabric furniture, and clothing. They can stick to carpets, pillows, and other surfaces. They may remain at high levels for several months. Pet allergens can cause symptoms up to six months after the animal is gone, especially cat allergens.
Allergens can get into the air when you pet or groom an animal. Once allergens have settled, they can be stirred into the air again. This can happen during dusting, vacuuming, or other household activities. Once airborne, the particles can stay in the air for long periods.
Because animal allergens are everywhere, it can be challenging to manage your symptoms if you have a severe allergy.
If I Want To Keep My Pet Can I Take Steps To Reduce My Pet Allergy
Animals become a part of your family. If your allergy is manageable, you may want to keep your pet. Here are some ways to manage pet allergens in your home:
Reduce your exposure to pet allergens.
- Keep your pet out of bedrooms or places people sleep. You spend about one-third to one-half of your time there. If you have a bedroom door, keep it closed.
- Keep pets off fabric furniture.
- Have someone without a pet allergy brush the pet outside to remove fur. Ask them to clean the litter box, bedding, or cage. If you do the grooming and cleaning, wear a face mask and gloves.
- Wipe your pet down with pet-friendly wipes or towels after it has been outside to remove pollen and urine.
- Change your clothes and shower after you spend time with an animal.
- Wash your hands and face after petting or touching the pet, its cage, or bedding.
Clean and reduce allergens in your home.
- Wear a mask and gloves when cleaning.
- Remove dust on hard surfaces often with a damp cloth. A damp or microfiber cloth will help keep the pet dander and fur from going back into the air.
- Wipe down walls, cabinets, and floorboards with a damp cloth.
- When possible, choose furniture and window coverings that are not made of fabric.
- Use slipcovers on fabric furniture or cover with blankets that can be washed weekly.
- Vacuum fabric furniture and carpets weekly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® vacuums meet AAFAs standards for vacuums.
Medical Review: June 2022 by John James, MD
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Reduce The Inflammation And Soothe The Itch
All cats that suffer from allergic skin disease are very itchy. At the first visit, your veterinarian may prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone, to alleviate the itch and inflammation in the skin.
For all skin diseases, bathing your cat can help to reduce inflammation and soothe their skin. Since most cats dont like baths, you may want to try a product like a mousse or a dry shampoo for cats that can clean your cat while avoiding water. Ask your veterinarian to recommend the right product for your cat.
What Is Food Allergy And How Is It Treated
Food allergies in cats are caused by an immune reaction to a food or food additive. The allergy most frequently develops in response to the protein component of the food for example, beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Vegetable proteins such as those found in corn or wheat, as well as food additives and preservatives, may cause food allergies in some cases. Food allergy may produce any of the clinical signs previously discussed, including itching, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress.
Food allergy testing is recommended when the clinical signs have been present for several months, when the cat has a poor response to steroids, or when a very young cat itches without other apparent causes of allergy. Testing is conducted by feeding an elimination or hypoallergenic diet. This means a diet in which the ingredients have not previously been fed to the cat . Because it takes at least eight weeks for all other food products to be removed from the body, the cat must eat the special diet exclusively for a minimum of eight to twelve weeks. If a positive response occurs, you will be instructed on how to proceed.
If the diet is not fed exclusively, it will not be a meaningful test. This means absolutely no treats, other foods, people foods, or flavored medications during this period. This cannot be overemphasized. Even accidentally providing a tiny amount of the offending protein can result in invalidating the test.
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Can You Build Up An Immunity To Dog Allergies
With allergy shots, you can safely build up immunity to dog allergies. However, simply having dogs and dander around will not improve immunity over time. Being miserable is not a solution to hopefully improve immunity. Over time, you may find yourself getting sick often and harm your health. However, working with an allergist, they can help you to improve your immunity over time with allergy shots.
General Information About Savannah Allergies
Allergies cause reactions and unpleasant side effects caused by an animals immune system. This is what helps a cat build up resistance to viruses. The immune system prevents unwanted bacteria and disease from entering a cats system. In a cat with allergies, the allergen triggers a reaction. Reactions can include itching, sneezing, coughing, swelling, watery eyes, vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea. A cats body can react to allergens as either hypersensitivity or an allergic reaction.
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Infections Caused By Cats
Allergies are a manifestation of the immune system’s over-reaction to a non-infectious substance. But you can also get an infection due to cat exposure, such as ringworm, or an infection due to a cat scratch.
A parasitic infection caused byToxoplasma gondii is spread by cat feces. This parasite is very dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause birth defects.
Infections caused by cats are different than allergies.
Managing Atopic Dermatitis In Cats
Atopic dermatitis is a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that your cat has consistently been on flea preventatives, has completed a food trial, and is still very itchy. At this point, the treatment options include:
Continuing to use corticosteroids
Using an immunomodulatory medication like Atopica
Blood testing for allergies to start immunotherapy
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatories, which means that they reduce the inflammation associated with cat skin allergies. Commonly used corticosteroids are prednisolone and triamcinolone.
Possible side effects include increased thirst and kidney injury. In cats, corticosteroids are usually quite safe, but they must be used at a dose that is as low as possible while still controlling your cats skin disease.
Atopica, also called cyclosporine, suppresses the immune system cells that are associated with allergies so there is less inflammation. Possible side effects of cyclosporine are stomach upset and diarrhea, but it is generally considered safe in cats.
The final possibility for atopic dermatitis is immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Immunotherapy means that we are trying to change how the immune system sees the antigens so that it no longer reacts.
This starts with a blood or skin test to figure out exactly what environmental antigens your cat is reacting to. Once the test has shown what your cat is allergic too, a laboratory makes a serum of the antigens.
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Symptoms Of An Allergy To Cats
The symptoms of a cat allergy are typically similar to those of other allergies such as hay fever1, as well as the common cold or flu1.
The best way to tell if your symptoms are from a cat allergy or a cold is when they occur1. If they only flare up when you’re around fluffy animals, the chances are it’s an allergic reaction to cats, not a cold1.
Within minutes of exposure to dander, or just seconds in some cases, sneezing may start, then a sudden runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.
Ongoing nasal stuffiness, sinus pressure over the eyes or cheeks and an itchy throat can follow.
The most common symptoms of a cat allergy include1:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Hives raised, red patches on the skin
If you have asthma, your symptoms may also trigger2:
- Difficulty breathing
- An audible whistling or wheezing when exhaling
- Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
Cat Allergies In Infants
There is ongoing debate among scientists whether infants who are exposed to animals at a very young age are destined to develop allergies, or if the opposite is true. Recent studies have come to conflicting conclusions. A 2015 study found that exposing infants to cats and dogs at home is associated with a higher risk of developing allergies during the first four years of the childs life.
On the other hand, a 2011 study found that babies who live with cats, especially during the first year of life, develop antibodies to the pet and were less likely to acquire an allergy later.
A 2017 study found that cats and dogs may provide a benefit by exposing babies to certain healthy bacteria early in life. The study concluded that babies exposed to a cat or dog in the home during pregnancy may have fewer problems with allergies in the future than babies who werent exposed.
Your doctor will be able to answer questions you may have about your baby and your cat. For children who are allergic, removing fabric toys and stuffed animals and replacing them with plastic or washable ones may help relieve symptoms.
Avoidance is best to prevent the allergies in the first place. But if you discover youre allergic to your cat, there are other options than getting rid of your pet. Consider these strategies for reducing your symptoms.
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Irritant Contact And Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Two different conditions are Irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. They produce very similar reactions. But both originate after contact with a chemical. Any cat can come into contact with an irritating chemical and have a skin reaction. In some cases, only cats that are allergic will show an irritating skin response. Cats with allergies to certain chemicals will develop after exposure at least twice. Areas, where the hair is thin or absent, are the likely areas to break out. These areas are the feet, chin, nose, abdomen, and groin. Both types of contact dermatitis produce red, itchy bumps along with skin inflammation. Skin injury is likely due to excessive scratching. Allergic contact dermatitis may spread more.
Chemicals producing irritant dermatitis are:
Allergy Skin Prick Test
This test is performed in your doctors office so they can observe any reactions.
Using a clean needle, your doctor will prick your skins surface , and deposit a tiny amount of the allergen. Youll likely be tested for several allergens at the same time. Youll also be skin pricked with a control solution that has no allergens. Your doctor may number each prick to identify the allergen.
In about 15 to 20 minutes, the skin prick site may become red or swollen. This reaction confirms an allergy to that substance. A positive cat allergy will usually cause a red, itchy bump to the cat allergen. These unpleasant effects generally go away 30 minutes after the test.
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