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This information was reviewed and approved by Carah Santos, MD (12/5/2022).

Exposure to animal dander (dead skin that is continually shed), animal urine and saliva can cause human allergic reactions to animals. Examples of allergy symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose, and rash. These reactions can make asthma, rhinitis and/or eczema (atopic dermatitis) symptoms worse in some people.

Animal Types

The dander, urine, and saliva of feathered or furry animals such as cats, dogs, birds and rodents (hamsters, gerbils, mice etc.) can cause allergy symptoms. Exposure to other warm-blooded animals, such as horses or cattle, or to products made with feathers or down also may cause allergy symptoms. A person can develop allergies with repeated exposure.

Common Animal Allergy Questions

Question: I have asthma and I'm allergic to my cats, but I don't want to give them away. Are there any new treatments for cat allergy?

Answer: Conventional asthma medications are effective for a cat allergy. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) generally work. Treatment with anti-IgE is likely to be effective. Work is in progress on oral and inhaled immunotherapy. Some doctors believe that weekly bathing of the cat reduces exposure to allergens enough to decrease symptoms. There are also cleaning products available from allergy supply houses that help to break down cat allergen that may be trapped in carpeting or furniture.

Question: I have a cat that is 8 years old. I know I'm allergic to it because when I touch my cat and accidentally rub my eyes, they itch and get very red. If you give your cat a bath every week for several weeks, does the dander disappear?

Answer: Washing a cat can lower cat allergen, but this may not be an effective way to control cat allergen in an indoor environment. The cat dander will never completely disappear and will return to “normal strength” if you stop bathing the cat.

More Animal Allergy Information



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