A pet allergy occurs when your body overreacts to the proteins found in pet dander, saliva, hair, and urine causing an allergic reaction. A pet allergy can be caused by any pet in your home.
Although any pet in your home can trigger an allergic reaction, allergies are typically caused by a pet with fur and rarely are caused by fish and reptiles. Cat, dog, and horse allergies are typically caused by a hypersensitivity to the protein found in their saliva or dander. Rabbit, mice, gerbil, hamster and guinea pig allergies are typically caused by a hypersensitivity to the proteins found in the animal’s urine, dander, and hair.
Pet allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe dependent on your sensitivity and amount of exposure to the allergen. The most common pet allergy symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Nasal Congestion
- Coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing
- Watery, red or itchy eyes
- Skin rash or hives
To diagnose a pet allergy, you can meet with an allergist who will dive into your health history looking for any consistent triggers to determine if your symptoms are allergic or non-allergic. Your allergist may also recommend a skin test to determine a pet allergy.
Management and Treatment
Avoidance is the best way to treat a pet allergy. If you already have the pet in your home that is causing the allergy, you can either remove the pet or keep the pet while making some changes to your lifestyle and home. Even with the below changes, you still may experience allergy symptoms. Here are some strategies to help reduce your allergy symptoms if keeping the pet in your home:
- Keep the pet out of your bedroom and restrict it to only a few rooms. Be advised that keeping the pet in only one room will not limit the allergens to that room.
- Don’t pet, hug or kiss the pet; if you do, wash your hands with soap and water.
- High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners run continuously in a bedroom or living room can reduce allergen levels over time.
- Regular use of a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner or a central vacuum can reduce allergen levels.
- Giving your pet a bath at least once a week can reduce airborne allergen.
Your allergist can help determine what treatment would be best to treat your pet allergy. There are many options from nasal sprays to oral medications to antihistamine eyedrops to help alleviate symptoms. Immunotherapy is another effective treatment choice that can help increase your tolerance to pet allergens over time.