Despite the fact that pets are part of the lives of most people, and become part of families, creating priceless memories from the hand of their owners, sometimes this unconditional love of animals is interrupted by allergies.
A pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, saliva, or urine. Signs of allergy include the same common symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as sneezing and runny nose.
Some people may also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing or difficulty breathing.
Exposure to dead skin flakes (dander) that a pet sheds usually triggers this type of allergy. And, although any animal that has hair can cause this type of reaction, in most cases it is associated with dogs and cats.
According to Mayo Clinic specialists, if a person has an allergy to a pet, it is best to avoid exposure to the animal or reduce it as much as possible. Medications and other treatments may be needed to relieve symptoms and control asthma.
Signs and symptoms of pet allergies caused by inflammation of the nasal passages include the following:
- Red, watery, or itchy eyes.
- Nasal congestion.
- Itchy nose, palate, or throat.
- Post nasal drip.
- Facial pain and pressure
- Frequent awakening.
- Bluish, swollen skin under the eyes.
- For a child, rub the nose up frequently.
If a pet allergy contributes to asthma, you may also experience some red flags such as:
- Short of breath.
- Chest pressure or pain.
- Ringing or whistling sound that can be heard when exhaling.
- Sleep problems caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing.
Some people with pet allergies may also experience skin symptoms, a pattern known as allergic dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is an immune system reaction that causes inflammation of the skin. Direct contact with an allergy-causing pet can trigger allergic dermatitis and cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Red, raised patches of skin (urticaria).
- Skin itch.
Some signs and symptoms of pet allergies, such as runny nose or sneezing, are similar to those of the common cold. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have a cold or an allergy. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, the person may have an allergy.
If they are severe (with completely blocked nasal passages and difficulty sleeping or wheezing), it is recommended that you call your doctor. Seek emergency care if wheezing or shortness of breath gets worse quickly or if the person has trouble breathing with minimal activity.
Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance, such as pollen, mold, or pet dander.
The system produces proteins known as “antibodies.” These antibodies protect against unwanted invaders that could cause disease or infection. When someone has an allergy, their immune system makes antibodies that identify a particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn’t.
Upon inhaling or coming into contact with the allergen, your immune system responds and produces an inflammatory response in the nasal passages or lungs. Long-term or regular exposure to the allergen can cause the ongoing (chronic) inflammation of the airways associated with asthma.
Dog and cat allergens are found in the animals’ skin cells (dander), as well as in saliva, urine, sweat, and fur. Dandruff is a particular problem because it is so small and can remain airborne for long periods with the slightest air circulation. They also build up easily on upholstered furniture and cling to clothing.
Pet saliva can stick to carpets, bedding, furniture, and clothing. Even dried saliva can become airborne. So-called “hypoallergenic” dogs and cats may shed less hair, but no breed is truly hypoallergenic.
Pet rodents include mice, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. Rodent allergens are usually present in hair, dander, saliva and urine. Dust from sand or sawdust on the bottom of cages can contribute to the formation of airborne allergens from rodents. Rabbit allergens are present in dander, fur, and saliva.
Sinus infections. Ongoing (chronic) inflammation of the tissues in the nasal passages caused by pet allergy can block the hollow cavities connected to the nasal passages (sinuses). These blockages can make you more likely to develop bacterial sinus infections, such as sinusitis.
Asthma. People with asthma and pet allergies often have difficulty controlling asthma symptoms. They may be at risk of having asthma attacks that require immediate medical treatment or emergency care.