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Pet allergies: why some people are allergic to cats and dogs and how to treat it

Pet allergies: why some people are allergic to cats and dogs and how to treat it

Many pet owners will be familiar with the particular problems that this time of year can bring – grass and pollen allergies can affect both us and our pets.

However, many people suffer allergies all year round and, unfortunately, there are thousands of people who are allergic to cats and dogs.

This can prove problematic for people with pets, regardless of whether it’s them themselves that have allergies or close friends and family who also come into contact with their pets.

Petplan takes a look at what causes this issue in some people and if there’s anything that can be done to treat it…

What causes pet allergies in humans?

It’s a common misconception that it’s the fur of cats and dogs that causes allergic reactions in people.

Research has shown the major allergens are, in fact, the proteins secreted by the oil glands in their skin – which means the dander (flakes of dead skin) as well as the saliva which sticks to the fur when an animal cleans itself – are what causes the reactions.

Many people are only allergic to cats, with cat allergies being roughly twice as common as dog allergies.

There are many breeds of hypoallergenic cat that, while not 100% free from allergens, do produce a lot fewer and may be better for people who are allergic to some breeds.

Amongst them are:

  • Balinese
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Javanese
  • Devon Rex
  • Sphynx
  • Siberian

What are the symptoms of a pet allergy?

For many people, the symptoms of an allergy to cats or dogs are similar to the reaction hayfever sufferers get when they come into contact with pollen.

The allergens can often cause itchy and inflamed eyes, stuffy nose and a tickly throat. While this may be uncomfortable, there are instances when the allergic reactions can be much more severe.

A lot of the airborne particles can be small enough to get into the lungs and, when inhaled, they can cause very serious breathing problems. It’s estimated that, for up to 30% of asthma sufferers, coming into contact with a cat can trigger an asthma attack.

How can you diagnose a pet allergy?

Diagnosing a pet allergy is far from simple.  As always, if someone suspects they may have a pet allergy, then their first port of call should be their doctor.

The doctor will run a series of tests, ask the relevant questions and make a diagnosis based on a thorough examination.

Any online advice should not be a substitute for professional medical care.

How can you treat pet allergies?

Unfortunately, for many people the best way to treat allergies is to avoid contact with cats and dogs altogether – especially if a person is suffering severe allergic reactions.

However, if the symptoms are milder in a person and they feel the benefits of having a pet or being around a pet outweigh the negatives, then there are certain things that may help:

  • Make sure pets are kept out of the bedroom
  • Keep the floors and surfaces clean and clear of any clutter. The animal allergens are sticky so having wooden floors and plenty of wipe-clean surfaces can help matters – even having carpets with low pile can help.
  • Get someone without a pet allergy to brush your pet (outside) and, if possible, have another person to do things that may stir up the allergens such as vacuuming or dusting.

Do you have any experience with pet allergies? What are your top tips for dealing with the problem? Let us know below… 

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