8 Common Questions About Pet Allergies, Answered

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The Animal Lover’s Guide to Pet Allergies

Pet ownership is incredibly rewarding, which is why pets are so common nowadays. It is estimated that 67 percent of U.S. households own some type of companion animal. With the numbers this high, it’s no wonder that pet allergy sufferers are always looking for solutions to be able to own a pet of their own.

To clear up some of the confusion surrounding pet allergies, we are answering common questions to share our knowledge about living with pets even if you are allergic and how you can manage your symptoms. 

1. Can you develop an allergy to dogs?

Yes, you can develop allergies to dogs, along with cats and other dander-shedding animals like horses, donkeys, rodents, gerbils, rabbits, and birds.  

Pet allergies can take months to years to develop, so it is possible to become suddenly allergic to your pet that you have owned for many years. While this is unfortunate, there are many treatment options and allergy tips you can implement to reduce your symptoms and manage pet allergies, so we encourage you not to lose hope or resort to rehoming your pet!

2. What causes pet allergies?

Most people assume pet allergies are caused by the animal’s fur or hair. In reality, it’s your pet’s dander, saliva, and urine that cause your allergic reaction! These particles contain proteins that some people can develop a sensitivity to. 

When your pet sheds, allergy-causing dander clings to the fur and is released into your home. If saliva is the cause, pets who show affection by licking can worsen symptoms as well. On top of that, pets that are not potty trained can add to the issue even more. If they are relieving themselves inside your home, or unknowingly tracking urine indoors, they will also worsen your symptoms.

Knowing what causes pet allergies is useful for helping you to avoid coming into contact with these allergens. 

3. What are the symptoms of pet allergies?

The symptoms of pet allergies vary from person to person and depend on the severity of the allergy. Ranging from mild to severe, below are the most common symptoms of pet allergies.

Mild Pet Allergy Symptoms

Mild allergies are not serious and often occur if your pet comes in close contact with your nose, ears, or eyes. Mild symptoms may look like a rash, runny nose, itchy eyes, or redness of the skin from your pet’s saliva.

Moderate Pet Allergy Symptoms

Moderate symptoms are fairly common and will look like sneezing or coughing, watering and itchy eyes, large rashes or hives on the skin, and the sensation of a swollen throat.

Severe Pet Allergy Symptoms

Those experiencing severe pet allergies should take caution around pets. Oftentimes, severe allergy sufferers cannot even be in a shared space with an animal due to the severity of their allergy. Severe allergic reactions include shortness of breath, weezing, asthma attack, and chest tightness. 

Mild and moderate allergies can often be treated without medical supervision. If you experience severe symptoms we recommend seeing a medical professional for relief options. 

4. How long do pet allergy symptoms last?

Depending on the severity, pet allergy symptoms can last up to one hour after exposure. Allergy symptoms often occur as quickly as within 5 to 10 minutes of exposure to a pet. 

Unlike environmental allergies (think seasonal or perennial allergies), it is easy to distance yourself from pet allergens by simply separating you and your pet. Whereas outdoor allergies are caused by inhalation of microscopic particles circulating in the air, which cannot be avoided as easily. 

5. Can pet allergies go away?

Simply put, yes — pet allergies can sometimes go away on their own! However, this isn’t guaranteed and is likely due to genetics or unknown environmental factors. This is especially true in children, as it is common for allergies to lessen with age. 

However, we don’t recommend dealing with your allergies with the hope that one day they will “magically” go away. If you are truly looking for a solution, allergy treatment such as immunotherapy can help you manage your pet allergies and reduce symptoms for several years. 

6. What is the best pet allergy medicine?

Not all over-the-counter medications treat pet allergies. Antihistamines like Allegra and Zyrtec only target symptoms due to environmental allergies and are therefore not the best pet allergy medicine. Decongestants and the like may provide some relief if you experience symptoms such as a stuffy nose. 

However, the best method for treating pet allergies is desensitization through immunotherapy. This type of allergy treatment introduces the allergen to your immune system in order to build up a tolerance. Treatment can take several years, but if successful, it can reduce allergy symptoms and may even eliminate them altogether! There are three forms of allergen immunotherapy which consist of injections, oral drops, and transdermal cream. 

Injections work well but are costly and must be administered several times per week by a medical professional. Drops are an easier alternative but are difficult for patients, such as children, who do not enjoy the taste. On the other hand, transdermal topicals such as ShotFree Allergy, seem to be the best alternative as they are a fraction of the price of injections and can easily be applied at home. 

7. What are the best pets for people with allergies?

As we always say, while no true “allergy-free” pet exists, hypoallergenic dog and cat breeds are shown to help reduce symptoms overall. This is simply because these animals are bred to shed less hair, and therefore distribute less amounts of dander throughout your home. 

Unfortunately, no other species outside of dogs or cats are yet to be designated as hypoallergenic. If you suffer from severe allergies, fish and reptiles are the best pet option. Though these may not seem like exciting pets, they make wonderful companions as they are easy to take care of. In case you weren’t aware, fish are capable of having larger-than-life personalities and reptiles are much more affectionate than you think! 

8. How do I manage pet allergies at home?

Managing pet allergies at home is very important when dealing with allergies. The main component of managing allergies is to keep your home extremely clean. 

Wipe down all hard surfaces and wash fabric materials at least once per week. Doing so will reduce the amount of allergens within your home. In addition, create space between you and your furry (or feathered!) friend. The more severe your allergy, the further apart you should stay away from your pet — at least until your allergy treatment reduces the severity of your reactions. Create dedicated pet zones within your home so they can have their own place to play and relax without putting you at risk by contaminating your furniture and so on. 

Finding the Perfect Pet for Allergy Sufferers

Just because you suffer from allergies doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to enjoy caring for a pet! If you are looking to add a pet to your household but are concerned about allergens, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hypoallergenic Pets. 

This free resource includes details about every hypoallergenic dog and cat breed, along with alternative pet options such as reptiles and fish that may be a good fit for you. In addition, you will also learn how to manage your allergies so that you can enjoy your new pet without any worry! Download your free copy of the guide below.

Download Guide