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Pet Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jun 11, 2021

Pet Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Pets positively affect a person’s well-being. Aside from being great companions, pets also provide comfort amidst loneliness. However, some people suffer from a certain type of allergy that you can only get from pets. As a pet owner, you might have these questions in mind: “How long do pet allergy symptoms last?’ and “Can I still keep my pet even with allergies?’

To answer these questions, read on.

What is a Pet Allergy?

When you sneeze uncontrollably, have a runny nose, or itchy skin when petting or playing with house pets (dogs and cats), then you most likely have a pet allergy. A pet allergy is an allergic reaction to multiple allergens or proteins found in animals. However, pet allergies are commonly associated with cats and dogs.

If you’re wondering why a lot of people think that they have pet allergies because of their pet’s fur, here’s the answer: Pet fur acts as the carriers of allergens. When your pet licks itself, sheds, or accidentally steps or sits on urine, allergens stick to their fur instantly.

Furry animals, especially cats and dogs, also carry dust and pollen on their fur. When an allergic reaction occurs when petting furry animals, you can either be allergic to dust or pollen, instead of having a pet allergy.

Pet allergens can collect in air, furniture, and other surfaces, as well as clothes. Allergens are also present in places where pets are neither found nor allowed. This happens since the clothes worn by pet owners carry the allergens everywhere.

Allergens produced by pets can stay suspended in the air and remain on surfaces for a very long time. So if you are planning to get a pet, but you are allergic at the same time, then you may want to consider a few things.

What Causes Pet Allergies?

A common misconception people have about pet allergies is that the allergens come from the pet’s fur. To burst that bubble, the allergens that cause these allergic reactions are pet dander. Pet fur only acts as carriers of the allergens rather than being the allergen itself.

What is pet dander? Simply put, pet dander is the microscopic flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, birds and other animals. These trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Cat and dog allergens

Allergens produced by these house pets are found in:

  • Saliva. When dogs and cats lick themselves, the allergen from the saliva transfers to their fur, which gives the idea that you might be allergic to your pet’s fur.
  • Urine. Allergens can also be excreted through urine. More potent allergens are found in male cats than dogs and female cats.
  • Dander
  • The potency of the allergens differs from one pet to another. However, no matter the breed and how fluffy or hairless your dogs or cats are, these adorable pets can still cause allergies.

    Pet Allergy Symptoms

    One of the common questions people allergic to pets ask is “How long do pet allergy symptoms last?’ Before that, let us first determine the symptoms that may show up with a pet allergic reaction:

    • Persistent rhinitis causes sneezing as well as a blocked, itchy, and runny nose.
    • Urticaria or hives is an allergic reaction that results in red, bumpy, and itchy skin.
    • Chronic allergic conjunctivitis is another reaction to pet allergies which causes a burning feeling in the eyes, itchiness, redness, as well as light sensitivity.
    • Postnasal drip occurs when the body reacts to a certain irritant by producing more mucus. The mucus will then get rid of the irritant that’s in the nose or throat. Postnasal drip is the uncomfortable feeling of mucus build-up at the back of the throat.
    • A dry cough is also one of the common symptoms of a pet allergy. Your sensitivity to pet allergens trigger dry coughs.

    If you are asthmatic, you might experience the following symptoms:

    • Shortness of breath or heavy breathing
    • Wheezing, severe coughing
    • Pain and tightness in the chest
    • Sleeping difficulties due to persistent cough and breathlessness

    Now to answer the question, how long does pet allergy symptoms last?

    Pet allergy symptoms may last for about 7 to 10 days or until the allergen is still present. Symptoms may subside for some time, but it will eventually come back when triggered by the same allergen.

    Can I Still Have a Pet Even Though I Have Pet Allergies?

    The best way to deal with pet allergies is not to have pets. If you are aware that you have pet allergies, getting a dog or a cat is not advisable. But if you are already a pet owner, abandoning or giving away your cat or dog is not an option. Instead, you need to take more serious precautions that can help reduce your allergic reactions.

    If you badly want a pet, you can try researching for breeds that are more compatible for people with allergies. Remember, allergen-free dogs and cats do not exist. All breeds of cats and dogs have allergens. It is just a matter of what breed does not trigger severe allergic reactions.

    How to Prevent and Manage Pet Allergies?

    Here are preventive measures you can take to lessen the frequency and severity of your allergic reaction:

    • Wash your hands after playing with your pet. It is also best to take a bath and change clothes to get rid of irritants on your body.
    • Allocate an area where your pet can stay.
    • Keep your pets away from couches, beds, and other upholstered furniture. Pet dander tends to stick to upholstered furniture.
    • Having a dog house outside is a nice way to effectively prevent any pet-related allergic reactions.
    • Give your dog a bath at least twice a week.
    • Regularly dust and clean your home to eliminate allergens. Frequently vacuum the floors and other surfaces, carpets, rugs, bedding, curtains, and other upholstered fixtures inside the house.
    • A HEPA air filter machine is also a good investment for a person with allergies. Make sure to put the air filter in places where the person with allergies often stays.
    • Do your research before getting a pet. If having a pet is something you truly want, do your research first and find the breed that is best compatible with your condition.
    • Always take your antihistamine, or other prescribed medications when needed.
    • Immediately seek medical attention if your allergic reaction worsens.

    Key Takeaways

    Having a pet is a big responsibility, especially for people with a pet allergy. If you are still debating whether to get a pet or not, it is still the best choice not to get one. Not because you are going to be a bad pet owner, but because your condition can hinder the quality time you will be spending with your little buddy.

    However, if you want a pet, just make sure to strictly follow preventive measures so you can enjoy playtime and cuddles with your furry companion despite your allergies.

    Learn more about Allergies here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Elfred Landas, MD

    General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

    Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jun 11, 2021

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