Becker Animal Hospital | What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Pet Allergies
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What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Pet Allergies

Author: Colleen F Finnegan

What causes pet allergies? The primary agents are proteins produced in the hair, feathers, fur, urine, saliva, and feces of pets. These proteins can stimulate a wide and uncomfortable variety of symptoms in sufferers.


Pet allergies can spring up all at once, or they can evolve over months or years. A new cat owner, for instance, may suffer no allergy symptoms until six months after introducing a pet to her apartment. It’s important not to jump to conclusions about the cause of symptoms.


Many environmental and physiological factors can produce “pet allergy like” symptoms. You may be allergic to other substances (e.g. pollen, mold, poison ivy, certain foods, climatic variations, and even stress) or suffer a medical condition like influenza, eczema, lupus, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

The best way to settle the diagnosis is to discuss the matter with your doctor. He or she can perform a range of tests (including skin and blood tests) aimed at pin pointing triggers. Be aware that allergies can often be comorbid with other conditions. To relieve symptoms, you will need to treat all triggers.


Symptoms of Pet Allergies


Pet allergies can present in vastly different ways in different patients. Some sufferers may experience eczema, nettle shaped rashes, and other skin blotches. Others may get asthma or other bronchial problems. Still others may present with full-on “hay fever like” symptoms, such as watery eyes, runny nose, headache, and congestion.


Symptoms can also vary in how, when, and how intensely they present, and individuals can respond to allergens in their environments differently at different times. For instance, let’s say you’re allergic to dogs. During one encounter with a golden retriever, you may develop hay fever symptoms and difficulty breathing. Several weeks later, you can encounter the same golden retriever, and this time, you may experience an allergic rash but no hay fever symptoms.


Allergic symptoms can create secondary health problems as well. Pet allergy sufferers are statistically more likely to develop ear infections, insomnia, and the common cold. Moreover, if left untreated, these symptoms can impede one’s ability to travel, visit friends, or even go shopping.


Notwithstanding all of these negative symptoms, a surprising number of Americans “work through” their symptoms just to have the joy of spending time with their favorite companions. Approximately two millions Americans, according to one study, keep cats even though they are allergic to them.


What Makes Pet Allergies Worse?


Just because you have a pet allergy doesn’t mean that you can’t be allergic to other things in your environment. Indeed, your allergy symptoms can be exacerbated by a whole host of environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke, pollen, dust in the air, and even your diet. If you don’t stay in shape by running, eating well, sleeping enough, limiting your stress, and avoiding excess consumption of drugs, alcohol, and caffeine, you can make your symptoms worse. Some studies even suggest that non-allergic pet owners who lead unhealthy lives put themselves at risk of developing allergies to their pets down the line.


How to Treat Pet Allergies


Fortunately for pet allergy sufferers, solutions abound. The simplest but in some ways saddest solution is to avoid pets entirely (or at least the pets which trigger your allergy symptoms). Thankfully, there are intermediate solutions you can try before parting with Fido or Mittens.


Taking allergy shots can prevent symptoms from developing. Minimize exposure in your environment by cleaning your house of pet dander particles or setting up a HEPA filter to circulate the air and eliminate pet allergens.


Shop for so-called low allergy pets, such as shorthaired cats or “low allergy” dogs like Bichon Frisé’s. If you can wrangle your pet for regular baths, you can reduce the amount of pet dander that will circulate in your house. Also, make sure to keep your pet healthy and active — studies suggest that pets that are confined can become more allergenic over time.


If you’re “super allergic” to pets and you need to visit someone who owns an animal which triggers your symptoms, wear a mask, and/or bring medications to control symptoms. Finally, declare an “allergy free zone” in your house. You may be able to control your symptoms simply by staying out of rooms your pet occupies regularly.


Medications to Control Symptoms


You can find over-the-counter and prescribed antihistamines to control symptoms, and corticosteroids and/or bronchodilators can be effective as well. You can also try over-the-counter topicals, such as eye-drops, nasal sprays, creams, and even non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).


Finally, it is possible to build up tolerances to pet dander through a program of controlled exposure over time. You may want to speak with an allergy specialist to come up with a comprehensive treatment plan. If you’re really allergic to a certain type of animal, make sure to carry emergency medication on your person in the event that you encounter that animal, since you may not have time to get to medical help before severe symptoms set in.

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About the Author

For 25 years, Allergy Control Products has been recommended by thousands of physicians as the most trusted allergy company for revolutionary products for indoor allergies. Whether you’re looking for the highest quality air purifiers, air filters, hypoallergenic bedding or more, you can rely on the over 500 allergy products that have helped hundreds of thousands of allergy sufferers combat allergies and allergy relief.