Allergies to Animals

Many people are allergic to animals of all kinds. In people with an inherited hypersensitivity, exposure to allergens in an animals saliva, dander, or urine can cause an allergic reaction. Most allergies to dogs, cats, and horses are caused by hypersensitivity to the proteins found in the animals saliva and dander. Most allergies to rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs are caused by hypersensitivity to the proteins found in the animals urine.

An allergic reaction is an immune system response. Allergy symptoms develop when proteins are carried through the air and come in contact with the lining of the respiratory tract. A person who has a severe animal allergy may experience a reaction in a public place from exposure to dander that is carried on a pet owners clothing.

Pet Allergies

Pet allergies are caused by an immune system response to the proteins which are present in the animal saliva, urine, or more commonly, dander. Allergies to dogs, cats, and other animals tend to be inherited. In most cases, the inherited animal allergies result from a genetic hypersensitivity to the proteins called allergens. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E.

This antibody binds to the cells in the body and causes the release of histamine. Histamine is a substance that dilates blood vessels. Animal allergens are carried though the air and are sticky and collect on surfaces. Petting, grooming, animal activity, vacuuming, and dusting all increase the amount of allergens that are released into the air. Animal allergens can remain on surfaces and in the air for many months.


When an allergy to dogs, cats, or other animals is suspected, the primary physician takes a medical history and performs diagnostic tests. If possible, the patient or animal is temporarily removed from the environment and the environment is thoroughly cleaned to determine if the symptoms improve.

Tests performed to determine if pet allergies exist include scratch tests, which involve applying suspected allergens and then scratching the skin to introduce the substance into the skin.

These tests are usually performed on the forearm, upper arm, or upper back to allow several allergens to be tested at the same time. An allergic reaction will typically occur within twenty minutes. Blood tests are also used to detect an allergic reaction. With a blood test a sample of blood is taken and mixed with the suspected allergen. The level of immunoglobulin E is then measured to determine if the allergy is from an animal.

The proper treatment of per allergies requires removing the animal from the environment and avoiding further contact if at all possible. If the animal is not removed adding an air cleaner to central heating and air conditioning is suggested to help filter the air. Removing carpet is also a suggestion as bare floors such as tile or hardwood are best. The pet should be brushed daily to remove dander and bathed weekly.

Vacuuming with a high efficiency particulate air filter is best to pull animal dander from carpet and furniture. It is also suggested that a dust mask is worn while vacuuming. These recommendations may not produce significant relief from symptoms and are not as effective as the removal of the pet from the entire indoor environment, but they should help somewhat.