Pet Allergies: Types, Symptoms, Cause, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention
Our knowledge is only restricted to dogs and cats when it comes to pet allergies. Nonetheless, apart from these pets, any animals with fur or hair may trigger allergic reactions to humans.
Here is an overview on the different types of allergies due to pets.
What Are the Types of Pet Allergies?
A potential reason behind pet allergies is dander. Pet dander is the microscopic skin flakes of cats, dogs and other animals with fur or feathers like rodents, horses, birds, to name a few, that lead to allergic reactions. As dander is microscopic, it remains airborne for a prolonged period and gets collected in furniture, carpets, curtains and clothes.
A few of the most common types of pet allergies are-
Cats and Dogs
Saliva, sweat, dander and urine of dogs and cats set off allergic reactions. Moreover, allergic reactions can also be due to the mould, pollen, and other allergen trapped in their fur or hair. Additionally, the dried saliva of these pets is airborne.
Rabbits and Other Rodents
Though uncommon, the allergen in horse dander may set off fatal reactions, especially among children.
The fine dust in bird droppings and mites (found in bird feathers) may lead to prominent symptoms of pet allergy.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Pet Allergies?
There can be various symptoms of pet allergy taking place in different parts of the body. Some of the prominent symptoms of pet allergy in humans in the nasal passage include the following.
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pain
- Eye itchiness or red and watery eyes
- Hay fever (runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion)
- Swollen blue under eyes
- Irregular sleeping pattern
- Itching sensation in the roof of mouth or throat
Among children, frequent upward nose rubbing is a common symptom.
Pet allergies can also cause multiple skin related symptoms. Patients may undergo skin conditions called allergic dermatitis, and it results in inflammation when the human immune system reacts to allergens. These individuals, if coming in direct contact with any pets, may experience the following signs.
- Skin itchiness
- Hives (red patches or rashes on the skin)
Who Are at Risks for Developing Pet Allergies?
People with asthma are at a higher risk since pet allergies contribute to the following complications.
- Chest pain
- Improper sleep due to breathing troubles and coughing
- Whistling noise while exhaling
People often mistake signs of pet allergy with common cold as they are quite similar. In case these signs last over 2 weeks, it indicates allergy and requires immediate medical care.
What Causes Pet Allergies?
Human immune system reaction to allergens including dander, mould, pollen, leads to nose inflammation and allergic rhinitis. The immune system recognises the specific animal proteins as fatal though harmless in such cases.
When individuals with pet allergies inhale such allergens or comes in contact, the immune system sets off allergic reactions by releasing histamine.
Note: Histamine is a chemical responsible for the nasal and skin symptoms related to pet allergies.
How to Diagnose Pet Allergies?
The best way to diagnose pet allergies is by taking a skin test. However, professionals require self-reported records as evidence of allergic reactions for some cases. Besides, experts also recommend a blood test to individuals under certain medications or if a skin test is not safe for them.
Professionals suspect pet allergies as per the symptoms, nose examination and blood and skin tests.
- Doctors assess the condition of the nose lining to confirm if it is swollen or appears pale or blue.
- An allergy skin test is a self-reported assessment. In this process, professionals prick a small amount of allergen extracts with pet proteins into an individual’s skin, especially on the forearm or upper back. Then, they observe the skin for prominent allergic reactions after 15 minutes.
Note: Allergy skin test has side effects like itchiness and redness on the skin. Therefore, it is restricted for people with particular medication and skin conditions.
- A blood test is an alternative for individuals with skin conditions and under specific medications. This examination screens blood cells for antibodies causing allergic reactions.
What Are the Treatments for Pet Allergies?
For faster relief from pet allergy, experts prescribe nasal steroids and antihistamines to control the reaction. A few of them includes:
1. Nasal Sprays or Drops
- Azelastine (Astelin, Astepro)
- Olopatadine (Patanase)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy)
- Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy)
- Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
- Desloratadine (Clarinex)
Apart from these, professionals prescribe antihistamine syrups for children.
- Corticosteroids- a nasal spray to cure hay fever symptoms
- Decongestants fight swollen nasal passage tissues to relieve breathing complications
- Leukotriene modifiers to cease immune system chemical reactions
Note: These steroids may have side effects. Therefore, use them only under a professional’s guidance.
In addition, immunotherapy and nasal irrigation are long-term treatment solutions to help control the symptoms of pet allergies.
How to Prevent Pet Allergies?
The best line of prevention to curb allergic reactions is to cut down exposure to pet allergens. However, it is not feasible to eliminate the exposure, especially for those who own pets. Therefore, to control the severity of the symptoms, individuals must practise the following habits.
- Install air filters and use a microfilter vacuum cleaner to keep the indoor pet-allergen free
- Keep pets away from bedrooms and carpets
- Bathe pets at least once a week
Note: Recommend a vet to avoid complications
- Brush the fur or hair of pets like cats and dogs at regular intervals
- Try not to hug or kiss pets. If done, wash hands with soap and water
- Keep pet areas clean to steer clear of dander accumulation
That said, people can opt for turtles, fish or any reptiles as their companions to sidestep the complications of pet allergies.