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Facts about Pet Allergies

Ø  More than 70% of U.S. households have a dog or cat.

Ø  10% of the general population is allergic to animal dander.

Ø  20% of people with asthma have pet allergies. 

Ø  Animal dander comes from saliva, skin cells, and urine (not much from hair).

Ø  Since cats lick themselves, cat dander gets onto their hair and off into the air.

Ø  Allergic to one cat, allergic to them all.  Having a cat at home may give some degree of immunity of cat dander.  This is the same principle as how allergy shots work, but the natural immunity from exposure is not as strong as the immunity built up by allergy shots.

Ø  Dogs produce up to 20 different allergens, therefore you can be allergic to just certain breeds.

Ø  Presence of animals in the first couple years of life may or may not decrease or delay the development of allergies.  More research needs to be done.

How are pet allergies diagnosed?

A skin test or blood test can show an allergy.  Symptoms around a pet (sneezing, itchy eyes) can make a pet allergy likely, but keep in mind that pet hair can have pollen on it.

Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat?

Not yet.  All cats produce the protein called  fel d1, the major cat dander.

Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog?

Yes, to some degree.  Some dogs release dead skin cells more slowly than others.  One “hypoallergenic” group is “single-coated breeds” (which do not have a thick undercoat) such as:  terriers, poodles, greyhounds, Bichon, Basenji, schnauzers, Irish Water Spaniel, Portuguese Water Dog, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Afghan Hound, and some others.  Hairless breeds may produce less allergies.  Young dogs do not produce as much dander as older dogs.  But a highly allergic person could have some symptoms from any breed.

To control pet allergies

1)        Keep pets out of the bedroom.  Consider running a HEPA filter in the bedroom.

2)        Research shows that carpeted floors hold more cat dander than noncarpeted floors.

3)        Wash hands after touching the pet.

4)        If getting rid of a pet, it can take up to 20 weeks for the dander to go away.

5)        Take allergy medications.  Consider allergy shots.

Are allergy shots effective for pet allergies?

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) can decrease allergy reactions to pets (along with other allergies).  Talk with your allergy provider about this.

Dr. Kevin O’Brien

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