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Posted on: March 01, 2019

You love your pet like a member of the family, but what happens when your pet triggers your allergy symptoms? You want to keep living with your pet, but not if that means an itchy, runny nose, congestion, coughing and sneezing all the time. What do you do?

If you believe you have a pet allergy, this is the article for you. In it, we’ll go over the causes of pet allergies, as well as whether these can just appear one day out of the blue. We’ll also talk about symptoms and ways you can manage your pet allergies with the help of an allergist.

What Causes Pet Allergies?

If you have a pet allergy, you’re not allergic to the cat or dog themselves. It’s not even their fur that leads to your symptoms. Instead, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) says the allergy is to the pet’s dander.

What exactly is pet dander? According to the American Lung Association, pet dander is small skin pieces from either dogs or cats. Other animals, such as birds and rodents, also have dander. You typically can’t see pet dander, which is why it may seem like you’re allergic to your pet itself.

In other instances, you may be allergic to the urine or even saliva of a pet as well as its dander, the AAAAI says. If it’s dander that causes your symptoms, it travels around the house by becoming airborne. The proteins in the pet dander are breathed in by you and other human members of your family. If those loved ones are not allergic, they will have no symptoms, but you will if you are allergic.

Can They Start out of Nowhere?

Almost any allergy can begin during any point in a person’s life. If you get new allergies in adulthood, these are referred to as adult allergies. Adult allergies can include pet allergies, food allergies and pollen allergies.  It is possible to own a dog or a cat (or even both) for years and then wake up one day having symptoms from their dander.

What Are the Symptoms of Pet Allergies?

The symptoms of pet allergies are as follows per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI):

  • Hives and/or skin rash
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Inability to breathe
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Nasal congestion that can worsen to the point of pain in the face
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sneezing

When to See an Allergist

If you’re suffering from any of the above symptoms, you might not want to believe it’s your pet that’s causing your discomfort. You might try to limit how often you’re outside to combat pollen or change your diet in case it’s a food allergy.

Eventually, you’re left with the reality that more than likely, it’s your beloved pet that’s responsible for your allergy symptoms. Even if your symptoms are mild, it’s still a good idea to schedule an appointment with your allergist. It’s possible for your allergies to worsen with time, especially if you’re allergic to cats.

When you do see your allergist, you should discuss your symptoms, including when they began and when they seemed to get worse. Your allergist will review your medical history and may call for a physical exam.

Next, they’ll recommend you’re tested. You may get a simple skin test, where you’re pricked with a needle that contains the allergen and then monitored for a skin reaction. A blood test is another option. In some situations, your allergist may even request you visit a hotel or stay with a family member or friend for a few days. If your allergies abate, then you know it’s because your pet at home is causing your symptoms.

How to Manage Your Pet Allergies

If your allergist has confirmed you have a pet allergy, what can you do? Unfortunately, rehoming your pet is the best option. If that’s what you decide, you will have to thoroughly clean the home. The pet dander can linger even after the pet has left.

For some people, getting rid of their pet is absolutely not an option. In those cases, try these methods:

  • Undergo immunotherapy or take medication to relieve and lessen allergy symptoms.
  • Make sure your pet is regularly brushed, but don’t do this yourself.
  • Get your pet bathed at least weekly to cut back on allergens like dander.
  • Invest in an allergy filter for your air conditioner or heater and run it daily for four hours or more.
  • If you snuggle up with your pet, put on a different outfit afterwards.
  • If you are the one vacuuming up the house, always use a dust mask so you don’t breathe in the dander and other pet allergens.
  • Make sure you get your carpet steam-cleaned semi-often so dander can’t linger.
  • Contemplate ripping out your carpeting and getting hardwood flooring instead; it’s much easier to vacuum up pet dander this way.
  • Have someone else regularly clean the pet’s toys, bed, scratching post and other items they like to use.
  • Keep the pet off the couch and out of the bedroom.

Don’t be mistaken; there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. Just because you’re allergic to cats doesn’t mean all cats cause allergy symptoms. The same is true of dogs. Certain species may make your allergies worse over others. The species that don’t cause allergy symptoms are not hypoallergenic, though.

Remember as well that your allergies can change. A species of cat or dog that did not affect you in years past could now manifest symptoms. That’s why you will have to continuously see your allergist. It may be necessary to modify your pet allergy management plan, especially if you continue living with your pet even though you’re allergic. If your allergies get worse or even get better, your allergist may recommend another treatment.

For Pet Allergy Relief, Come to Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center

If you have pet allergies and feel conflicted on what to do, we suggest you come to us at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. It is possible to get relief from your allergy symptoms without necessarily giving up your beloved pet. Whether it’s through one of the measures above or another treatment entirely, why not set up an appointment with one of our allergists?

Here at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we specialize in much more than pet allergies. We can treat or help you manage a variety of allergies and their triggers, including insect allergies, drug allergies, food allergies and more. If you have both asthma and allergies, we can alleviate or lessen the symptoms of both conditions.

We have a total of 13 locations throughout the Carolinas, including in Charlotte, Rock Hill, Gastonia, Monroe, Cornelius and Hickory so we can better serve you.

When you come in to meet with an allergist at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we will often do tests like patch testing, intradermal testing and/or percutaneous testing to confirm the suspected allergen. This is in addition to a standard discussion about medical history and symptoms. Our allergists may then prescribe allergy shots or immunotherapy, both of which can be useful treatments if you want to keep your pet but not deal with daily allergies.

If you want more information about our services administered here at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center or you’d like to set up an appointment with one of our allergists, please contact us today. We look forward to helping you live a better life with pet allergies.