Pet dander allergy is one of the most common allergens across the world. Although many people assume it's pet hair or fur that causes allergies, it's not. Pet allergens consist of danger (microscopic flakes of dead skin), saliva, and urine. They come from animals with fur or feathers, including dogs, rodents, cats, birds, and horses, among others.
Overall, pet dander lingers in the air for a long time and can easily stick to furniture, fabric, and bedding, among other household items. It’s not surprising to find these dead skin cells in households that don’t have pets, given that they spread fast and hide in hard-to-find places. Although pet dander is the primary cause of allergies, proteins found in urine, pet saliva, and feces can also trigger allergy symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Pet Allergies?
Many pet lovers with animal dander allergic reactions have inflammation in the nasal passages. Some may experience signs of asthma. Other allergy symptoms you may see include:
- Runny nose
- Watery, red, and itchy eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Frequent awakening
- Facial pressure and pain
If you suffer from allergic asthma symptoms, you may also experience:
- Chest tightness and pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing sound or audible whistling while exhaling
- Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing
Other pet allergy symptoms include skin symptoms known as allergic dermatitis. This condition causes an immune system reaction, which in turn causes skin inflammation. When people come into contact with an animal-related allergen, it can trigger skin dermatitis, causing allergy symptoms like:
- Red patches of skin
- Itchy skin
Are Pet Dander Allergies the Same as Pet Hair Allergies?
Many people assume pet dander is pet hair, but this is inaccurate. Dander is dried skin cells. It's lightweight and can float in the air before it settles on household items.
While dander involves airborne allergens, pet hair plays a significant role in carrying dander, acting like a vehicle for the substance to move around and through your home. After dander is shed, the pet's hair holds the minute particles of skin and carries it through the air, releasing the allergens whenever it's disturbed.
Allergy Causing Proteins
It's estimated that roughly 10% of people in the United States have pet allergies. However, cat allergies are more common than dog allergies. The reason for this is due to a unique protein found in the cat’s skin called Fel d 1.
This particular protein may cause more of an allergic reaction due to its size. These proteins are so small and can linger in the environment for a long time, leading to prolonged and sustained exposure. Moreover, cat saliva is sticky, making it cling to surfaces and sometimes staying behind after a surface is cleaned.
All cats produce Fel d 1, but male cats release more than female cats. Neutering and spaying your cat can reduce the amount of these proteins. Even cats that are considered hypoallergenic, such as those that are hairless, release Fel d 1. Although hypoallergenic pets produce fewer allergens, no animal is truly hypoallergenic.
The Best and Worst Dog Breeds for Pet Allergy
Like cats, there are no dog breeds that don't produce dander and other pet allergens, but there are those who produce less. Dogs like poodles, American hairless terriers, schnauzers, and other breeds are excellent choices for reducing pet allergies.
Some dogs are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than others. High shedding dog breeds tend to spread more pet dander. Dogs with tons of fur are not the only ones that cause a pet allergy. Some, like hound dogs, are also notorious for shedding. Also, be aware of dog breeds that drool a lot. Dog saliva, just like that of felines, can trigger your animal allergies.
The Best and Worst Cat Breeds for Pet Dander
If you have cat allergies but want to have one as a pet, certain breeds make better choices for people who have an allergic reaction to pet dander. The cats that are less likely to cause pet allergy symptoms include Siberian or Balinese, as they produce less Fel d 1 protein.
Cat breeds that tend to trigger more reactions include long-haired breeds and Persian cats, which produce higher levels of Fel d 1 and should be avoided if you're allergic to cat dander.
Are There Other Pet Hypoallergenic Animals Other Than Cats and Dogs
Although it's not just dogs and cats that cause pet allergies, other pets are less likely to cause pet dander allergy symptoms. Pet lovers who want to live with hypoallergenic animals should consider animals like guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and other pets.
These animals may still trigger allergic reactions in your immune system, but your response may be less severe as they produce less dander that's smaller in size.
However, if you've worked with animals, like mice or guinea pigs, in a research facility or lab, you might be more likely to be allergic to them. Researchers can develop allergy symptoms after handling animals in their studies, a sensitivity called laboratory animal allergy (LAA).
Top 5 Ways to Get Rid of an Allergic Reaction
You can take steps to get rid of pet dander and other allergens from your home. Here are five ways to prevent allergy symptoms and overall dander reduction.
Understand Your Allergies
The first step to fighting dander allergy involves getting a clear picture of your specific allergens. Talk to your allergist about taking an allergy test or order an at-home test kit to identify what allergies you have.
Filtrate the Air
An air purifier can remove pet allergens and other harmful pollutants from the air in your living space. Air filtration is among one of the primary ways homeowners can improve the outcome of treating respiratory diseases like allergies and asthma. It is, however, essential to choose the right indoor air purifier to reduce allergy symptoms and pet dander and improve overall air quality. Opt for a HEPA filter to maximize filtration.
Create a Pet-Free Zone
Another way you can manage your pet allergy is by limiting where your pet is allowed in your house. You can create an allergy-free zone area in your home where your pet is not permitted to go. At a minimum, include the bedroom, particularly if you’re experiencing pet dander allergies. This will decrease your exposure to pet allergens while in bed, and minimize your nighttime allergies. If this is impossible, clean frequently to remove lingering dander in the air and on household surfaces.
Minimize Allergens Released
When you want to remove dander released by cats and dogs, you must clean your pet weekly. Cleaning removes dead skin cells and limits the amount of dander being released around your home. Be sure to only use cleaning products suitable for pets. Ask your veterinarian or animal care professional for recommendations for the best products to use for your animal. This practice of regular washing also applies to pet bedding and plush toys.
Try Sublingual Immunotherapy
Over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays can help manage your symptoms, but they only offer short-term relief. Sublingual immunotherapy, on the other hand, addresses your allergies where they start -- in your immune system. By gradually exposing your body to increasing amounts of allergens through allergy drops or tablets, your immune system becomes desensitized to the substance. This tolerance reduces your immune response and your pet allergy symptoms long-term.
Are You Ready for Pet Allergy Relief?
Talking to trained allergy practitioners is essential to finding relief from pet allergies. They may recommend testing and creating a personalized treatment plan to address your specific response.
At Wyndly, our allergy specialists use an at-home allergy test kit that can identify over 40 of the most common environmental allergens, including dog and cat dander, rodent dander, horse dander, and more! And with our sublingual immunotherapy subscription service, you can find long-lasting allergy relief. Take our two-minute assessment today to see if you're a candidate!