Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, saliva or urine. Signs of pet allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Some people may also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Most often, pet allergy is triggered by exposure to the dead flakes of skin (dander) a pet sheds. Any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergy, but pet allergies are most commonly associated with cats, dogs, rodents and horses.
If you have a pet allergy, the best move is to avoid or reduce exposure to the animal as much as possible. Medications or other treatments may be necessary to relieve symptoms and manage asthma.
Signs and symptoms of pet allergy
Signs and symptoms of pet allergy caused by inflammation of nasal passages include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure and pain
- Frequent awakening
- Swollen, blue-coloured skin under your eyes
- In a child, frequent upward rubbing of the nose
If your pet allergy causes asthma, you may also experience:
Some people with pet allergy may also experience skin symptoms. Allergic dermatitis is an immune system reaction that causes skin inflammation
. Direct contact with an allergy-causing pet may trigger allergic dermatitis signs and symptoms, which may include:
Diagnosis of pet allergy
- Raised, red patches of skin
- Itchy skin
Based on your symptoms, your doctor may order certain tests to diagnose pet allergy
. Some of the tests include:
Treatment of pet allergy
- Allergy Skin Test: Your doctor may suggest an allergy skin test to determine exactly what you're allergic to. You may be referred to an allergy specialist for this test.
- Blood Test: In some cases, a skin test can’t be performed because of the presence of a skin condition or because of interactions with certain medications. As an alternative, your doctor may order a blood test that screens your blood for specific allergy-causing antibodies to various common allergens, including various animals.
Although pet allergy symptoms may diminish through avoidance and cleaning, it may not be possible to adequately limit pet allergen exposure for all patients. Treatment options include medications and immunotherapy.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are a unique form of treatment which specifically lowers the patient’s sensitivity to his or her pet and can work well where other forms of therapy prove inadequate. Immunotherapy is highly recommended if a pet in the home causes frequent symptoms that avoidance and medications cannot properly manage.
When a pet cannot be removed from the home and continues to cause significant allergy symptoms despite good environmental controls and use of medication, immunotherapy becomes the treatment of choice.