Pet Allergy - Health Tips

Thoughts on Pet Allergy by Dr. Michelle Yasharpour, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI
June 2023
  • There are no “hypoallergenic” breeds of cats or dogs. Giving the pet away is the best control, which most pet owners are unwilling to do. Even after removing a cat from the home, the level of allergen will remain elevated for the next 5-6 months.
  • Remove the pet from the home- keeping the animal outdoors
  • If unable to keep the pet outdoors, then minimize contact and keep the pet out of the bedrooms and other rooms where you spend a great deal of time.
  • Do not allow the pet on upholstered furniture
  • Wash hands after handling pets
  • Thoroughly clean carpeting, floors, walls, and upholstered furniture weekly
  • Mattress, pillow, boxspring, and duvet cover encasings, pore diameter needs to be smaller than 6 microns
  • HEPA air filter may reduce airborne pet allergen exposure
  • Wash your pet often
  • Cats at least weekly
  • Dogs twice weekly
  • Rabbits, hamsters, mice, and guinea pig urine is the source of allergen. Ask a non-allergic family member to clean the cage.
  • Vacuum carpets often with a HEPA filter attachment or replace carpeting with hard flooring (ie hardwood, linoleum, or tile).
Thoughts on Pet Allergy by Dr. Mark Young, MD
September 2022

It is well accepted that furred pets contribute to allergic diseases such as allergic rhintis (hay fever), asthma, and atopic dermatitis (allergic eczema). We allergists often see patients who are experiencing sneezing and wheezing that is due directly to breathing in cat and dog dander particles. Symptoms can improve greatly with total avoidance of the pets, but patients are usually unwilling to part with their beloved animals.

So, we often suggest rinsing the pets with water twice a week, having the bedroom off-limits to the pets, removing reservoirs of the dander (e.g. replacing carpet with tile, putting allergy-proof encasements on mattresses), and using HEPA filters for the bedroom. If this doesn’t alleviate the symptoms, medications and/or allergy shots can be helpful.

Also, it should be noted that many patients have other allergens, such as molds and dust mite. If patients are allergic to these substances, then other measures can be taken. If allergies are a problem for any individual, allergy testing by skin test can be helpful in their management.

But a very hot topic in allergy now is whether allergic families should have pets in their homes. To begin with allergies are genetically linked, that is, they run in families. Let’s use an example. If a parent has mild allergies to dust mite but not allergic to cats, is it o.k. for the parents to have a pet in the home as they bring up their children. Obviously, if the child develops allergies to an animal, then the avoidance measures should be done.

However, several recent studies looking at large groups of people have found an interesting trend – that children born into a house with a pet were somewhat LESS likely to become allergic than those children born into a house without pets. No one knows why this may occur, but the two main theories are:

    1. High exposure to an immature immune system of an infant to animal allergens tends to tune down the allergic process.

    2. Exposure to tiny amounts of animal waste products distract the infants immune system, and direct it toward non-allergic activities.

There have been several studies in the past that showed that high exposure of infants to dust mite lead to more allergies, suggesting that there is something different about animal allergens and dust mite.

Also very interesting is a recent study in the May 2002 issue of “Epidemiology” showing that older children were MORE likely to develop asthma if they had pets, especially dogs, in their homes. The study also showed that there was in increase in asthma with the use of humidifiers and having over four house plants in the house (suggesting that dust mite and mold avoidance may be important in prevention).

So, we are left with some controversy. It seems like infants may be protected from developing allergy if they are brought up in a home with pets. Older children who don’t have allergies yet, may be more likely to develop them if animals are in the house. Consequently, we don’t know what to tell future allergic parents. Until more information comes out, most allergist are still recommending avoidance of furred pets (fish, birds, reptiles aren’t much of a problem). However, we all strongly recommend dust mite and mold avoidance measures in homes of potentially allergic children – that is, no carpeting, limiting the amount of house plants, and keeping the home cool and dry.

Thoughts on Pet Allergy by Dr. Jeffrey Demain, MD
August 2022

Cat and dog allergens are proteins secreted from the animal’s skin. There is not really such a thing as a hypoallergenic breed of cat or dog. However, cats produce allergen more consistently than dogs. There can be individual variation on how allergenic a particular dog is, but this is impossible to predict. Cat allergen especially is a very small, sticky protein and studies show that it is present in public places.

The most effective way to avoid cat or dog allergen is to find another home for the pet, but this is often not practical for families. After an animal is removed, allergen still persists in the carpet and furniture for several months.

Other methods of avoiding pet allergen in the home are not terribly effective for preventing symptoms, but it is recommended to keep the pets out of bedrooms, vacuum with a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration regularly, obtain a HEPA-filtered air purifier for the bedrooms, and consider removing carpet and putting in hard flooring.

Thoughts on Pet Allergy by Dr. Gurdev Judge, MD
February 2022

While pets are wonderful additions to a household, they can cause allergic reactions in those who are sensitized to animal allergens. The most common animal allergies are to cats and dogs, but any warm-blooded pet, including small rodents, birds, rabbits, cows, and horses can cause problems. Most animal allergens circulate throughout a house as small microscopic particles, invisible to the human eye. Cat allergen, for example, can come from the saliva, fur, body secretions, or skin and is only about two microns. As a comparison, the cross section of a human hair is 100 microns. Regular resting sites of animals like carpets, couches, and beds generally have a significant allergen build-up. People are not allergic to an animal's hair, but to an allergen found in the saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or urine of an animal with fur. Usually, symptoms occur within minutes.

Source: Vivacare
Last updated : 2/10/2023

Pet Allergy - Health Tips originally published by Vivacare