Are You Allergic to Your Pet?

H. Farhadian, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.A.A.A.I.
Copyright© 2019, H. Farhadian, MD. All rights reserved.

Many Americans keep some kind of pet at home. The most common pets are dogs, cats, and birds. Less common pets include hamsters, rabbits, mice, gerbils, rats, guinea-pigs and snakes.

The element that causes allergy is called "allergens". Pet allergens are found in the skin, hair and dander, saliva, and urine. For example, in dogs, the allergen is mainly found in the skin dander, in cat's it is in saliva and in rodents it is found in the urine. Manifestations of pet allergy include one or several of the following symptoms: Sneezing, runny nose, nasal itching, congestion and eye symptoms (i.e., itching, redness and tearing).

Some patients may develop symptoms of asthma, such as, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and production of phlegm.

These symptoms, however, do not always happen immediately after exposure and occur several hours later. This is the reason some allergic individuals, by mistake, do not think they are allergic to their own pets. These groups do not get "first- phase reactions" and develop only "second phase". There are some individuals that may be allergic to only a sub-group of dogs and cats and not to the others. Studies have proven this statement.

The best therapy for pet allergy is avoidance. Since pets gradually become part of the family, many people hesitate to get rid of or find another home for them. Even when people give up their pets, they still risk exposure to other people's pets directly or indirectly through their clothes or when visiting homes that have pets. If complete elimination of pets from the environment is not possible, keeping pets outdoors, or at least out of the bedroom, is preferred.

Washing animals with fur weekly, such as dogs and cats, is helpful. Not only does washing eliminate skin dander, it also protects animals from possible pollens, molds or house dust mites that they carry in their fur.

Allergists can play a major role in treating allergic individuals. He is able to test and find out if you are allergic to the animals. If the test is positive, he will be able to treat you by immunotherapy, which is a type of vaccination against what you suffer from. Allergists how have access to new and safe medications for treatment and relief of allergies and asthma.