Pet Allergy

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the most common symptoms of dog or cat allergy? 

Allergic reactions to cats and dogs are caused by proteins found not only in the animal’s dander, but also in their saliva and urine. Pet proteins may cause mild, moderate or severe allergy or asthma symptoms of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, rhinitis, sinusitis, hives or itching. Pet allergies can also affect the eyes; symptoms include itching, burning, swelling and tearing.

What dog or cat breeds are hypoallergenic or safe for people with asthma? 

While some breeds may produce more allergen than others, there are no hypoallergenic (allergen-free) dogs or cats, since all have allergen proteins in their saliva, urine and dander. However, not all people with pet allergy develop symptoms around all dog or cat breeds.

If they are going to happen, how soon should allergy symptoms show up after exposure to a pet? 

Reactions to pets can be immediate, happening within minutes, or may be delayed for hours after the exposure. To determine whether allergy symptoms are triggered by contact with a pet, see a board-certified allergist for a diagnosis.

I get an itchy rash on my hands whenever my dog licks me. Could I be allergic to the dog’s saliva or could it be something he’s eaten? 

Itching, rashes and hives are common allergic reactions that can occur when dogs lavish loving sloppy kisses on their owners, but if you suspect his diet may be the issue, try changing his food (check the labels) for a week and see if the symptoms stop.

I am allergic to my cat and was wondering if washing her frequently would reduce the amount of cat allergen I am exposed to? 

Study results on this subject have been conflicting, showing either no change or only a short-lived improvement with frequent cat washings. The current opinion is that the benefits of cat washing are so transient that it is unlikely to be worth the effort or trauma to the cat. However, there are plenty of people who swear by it; their cats have been getting bathed since they were kittens.


For more information:

Ask the Allergist: “My daughter has asthma and is allergic to cats. Can we keep our family cat if we keep it out of the bedroom?”