Pet allergies

Coping with Pet Allergies

Pet allergies are a reaction to specific animal proteins — proteins found in pet saliva, skin, or urine. About 30% of the U.S. population reports an allergy to a cat or a dog. Nearly twice as many people are allergic to cats as to dogs.


Allergy symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, coughing
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Itchy nose or throat
  • Watery, itchy eyes with swollen skin underneath
  • Dermatitis, such as hives, eczema, or itchy skin
  • Breathing problems, wheezing, or chest tightness


The most common pet allergies are those to cats and dogs. However, people also report allergies to guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, and other furry animals. If you have a pet allergy, your immune system will respond to pet allergens, like dander, by creating antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that find and neutralize allergens. In “attacking” the allergens, in this case substances produced by the pet, the immune system and its antibodies create inflammation. And the inflammation causes various symptoms.

Pet dander, or dead skin cells, is the biggest trigger.

Risk Factors

People whose parents suffer from an allergic condition are more likely to develop allergies.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you think you suffer from a pet allergy, meet with an allergist. The allergist will ask about your symptoms and family history. They’ll ask what medications you’ve taken for your allergic reactions and what kind of animal seems to trigger them.

Then, they may perform a skin prick test. The test involves placing a tiny amount of allergen on your skin. The skin is then slightly scratched. If a reaction develops at the skin test site, the allergist can determine your allergen levels. The reaction usually resembles a bug bite and appears within about 15 minutes.

Allergists can then begin treatment to relieve symptoms. Some people need over-the-counter antihistamines or nasal sprays. Some simply avoid direct contact with pets. One long-term solution is allergen immunotherapy, which involves a series of allergy shots to help a patient’s immune system become more tolerant to an allergen.

Coping with Pet Allergies

The allergy and immunology specialists at Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health provide a full scope of specialized care to patients with all types of allergies. For a consultation about pet allergies, contact us today for an appointment.

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