What Are Pet Allergies and How Do You Live with Them?

Love your pet, but have pet allergies? Allergist Flavia Hoyte, MD, explains what happens when you’re allergic to pets, how to get diagnosed and how to keep your pet but control the allergens.


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Allergies to pets are very common.

What's happening is very similar to a pollen allergy.

Where something is breathed into the body and the body sees it as a threat.

In this case, pet dander.

The most common pet allergies are gonna be to cats, dogs. We see horses, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, rats, you name it.

Pretty much anything that has hair or fur that can generate that dander, which is actually found in the saliva.

The symptoms of pet allergy are gonna depend on what part of the body's getting in contact.

So, some patients will actually develop hives when they pet animals that they're allergic to.

Other patients will develop ocular symptoms, so itchy eyes, red, watery eyes.

Also, nose symptoms, so sneezing, runny nose, congestion, post nasal drip.

And there are some patients with asthma, where the exposure to pets that they're allergic to will actually trigger their asthma.

So, in terms of testing for pet allergies, we have skin testing, as well as, intradermal testing.

And we also have blood tests that are specific to the various different kinds of pets.

So, really, to test for pet allergies, you'll have to test for cat and dog and horse, etc. Separately.

When somebody comes in complaining that their dog may be causing problems or that somebody else's dog, more likely, is causing them problems.

It's very important to note that the dog can bring in outside allergens.

And so, somebody might be reacting, actually, to the pollen that's on the dog that's rolled around in the grass.

And so, what we generally do, is we'll test the same test, which is the skin testing or the intradermal testing for the pet, but also for the aero-allergens, just in case that compounding the symptoms.

Many families already have a pet.

And so, generally, in those cases, we will work around the fact that there is a pet in the home and try to limit the amount of dander exposure.

Things that can limit dander exposure, would be limiting upholstered furniture, rugs and carpets.

And then, if those things exist in the home, really keeping them vacuumed frequently, keeping them clean.

And then, wiping down leather furniture as well.

In terms of the actual pet, the actual pet needs to be cleaned frequently.

And that should be done by somebody other than the allergic person.

And then, the most important thing is gonna be keeping the pet out of the bedroom.

So, the bedroom should be a sanctuary where overnight, all those hours spent sleeping are not also spent breathing in allergens.

And so, that bedroom door should be closed at all times and the pet should not be allowed in there, because otherwise, they will leave the dander behind.

For patients who have a pet in the home and remain symptomatic to the pet, we'll generally treat the symptoms.

So, that includes, nasal sprays, and eye drops, and medicines for the lungs if those are being affected by the pet.

For patients who don't have pets at home, but have friends or family members with pets, we'll often advise that they take an antihistamine before going to a pets home or maybe even take two puffs of their rescue inhaler if they know that exposure to the pet is gonna cause problems with their asthma.

And then, of course, there's allergy shots.

So, allergy shots can transition a patient from an allergic state to a tolerant state.

And this is a very important option for treatment in patients who have a pet that they know they're allergic to, and they know they want to keep.

Visit njhealth.org/pet-allergies for tips on how to live with a pet you’re allergic to.

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