Pet Allergies – What are They and What Can Be Done to Help?

Individuals who are allergic to their pets generally have the same symptoms as people who have allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis to other allergens such as dust mites, molds, pollens, and, cockroaches.  These symptoms may include some or all of the following:  sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy nose, post-nasal drip, itchy ears, clogged ears, itchy throat, itchy eyes, red eyes, watery eyes, puffy eyes, sinus congestion, sinus headaches, snoring, hives, generalized itchiness, swelling episodes, fatigue, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, and/or shortness of breath.

It is the proteins found in the pet’s dander, urine, and saliva that act as the allergens which cause pet allergic individuals to react when exposed to pets.  In cats, the major allergenic protein is called Fel d 1.  Fel d 1 is primarily produced in cat saliva as well as in the skin itself.  Male cats produce more Fel d 1 than female cats.  Other cat allergens include Fel d 2, Fel d 3, Fel d 4, Feld 5, and Fel d 6.  Fel d 4 seems to be the 2nd most potent cat allergen after the major cat allergen which is Fel d 1.  Can f 1 and Can f 2 are the two major dog protein allergens which are found on a dog’s dander.  They are produced by the dog’s tongue tissue as well as other salivary glands.

In addition to cats and dogs, there are numerous other animals that people have as pets, some of which include birds, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, rats, spiders, snakes, lizards, turtles, fish, and horses.  In general, fish, reptiles, and amphibians as pets do not cause significant allergies to most individuals.

If you or someone you know has allergy and/or asthma symptoms when exposed to pets or has allergy and/or asthma symptoms and they live with a pet, they should seek a board certified allergist’s care to determine if they are in fact allergic to that pet.  At Black & Kletz Allergy, our board certified allergy doctors have the expertise in determining if someone has a pet allergy.  It begins with a comprehensive history and physical examination to identify any signs or symptoms that appear to be attributable to a pet allergy.  The diagnosis can be confirmed with allergy testing which can be done via blood tests or allergy skin tests, with the latter being a more sensitive testing method.

Once the diagnosis is made, our allergists will make recommendations on how to best avoid the pets as well as reduce exposure to the pet allergens, since in almost every circumstance, the person does not want to part with their pet as it is a beloved member of their family.  Black & Kletz Allergy offers many tips to pet-allergic individuals that help reduce exposure to the pet allergen proteins that cause allergic symptoms.  Allergy medications are usually prescribed in order for the individual to be able to tolerate being around the pet.  These medications may include oral antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers, and/or leukotriene antagonists.  Allergy immunotherapy (i.e., allergy shots, allergy injections, allergy desensitization) has been found to be extremely effective in the management of pet allergies.  In addition, allergy shots may also contain other allergens such as dust mites, molds, and/or pollen, depending upon the individual’s sensitivities and his or her allergy history.  Allergy shots are effective in the treatment of allergic rhinitis in about 80-85% of the patients that take them.  The average length of treatment on allergy shots usually ranges from 3-5 years.

Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 convenient office locations in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area.  We have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  All of our offices offer on-site parking and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  The McLean, VA office has a free shuttle that runs between our office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  If you suffer from pet allergies and/or asthma related to animals, as well as any other type of allergy, please call us to schedule an appointment.  Alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond to you within 24 hours by the next business day.  Black & Kletz Allergy has been providing excellent allergy and asthma care in the Washington, DC metro area for more than 50 years and we look forward to helping you.