animal allergy

Animal allergy is defined as the development of allergic symptoms following contact with animals or inhalation of small animal particles. When these substances, known as allergens, enter the body of an allergy sufferer, they trigger a hypersensitivity reaction by the immune system through the production of IgE antibodies which, reacting with them, trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals, and produce inflammation of the nasal, ocular or bronchial mucosa, leading to the typical symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Which animals can cause an allergy?

Any furry or feathered animal can cause an allergy in genetically predisposed people. Up to 366 species of animal have been described as capable of causing allergic disease in humans. Cats and dogs are the most frequent cause, as they are the most common pets, but allergy has been described for many other animals, such as horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, chinchillas, ferrets, squirrels, domestic birds, iguanas and other reptiles, etc.

What causes animal allergies?

Animal allergens are contained in the secretions of their sebaceous and salivary glands and in their excrement, so the allergy arises from inhalation or contact with their dander, hair, urine, saliva or serum.

Is hair the cause of animal allergy?

Contrary to popular belief, it 's not hair that is the main cause of animal allergy, but dander particles, which contain allergens formed in the secretions of the sebaceous and salivary glands. In animals, as in humans, the skin gradually breaks down into microscopic scales as it renews itself. Allergen-containing secretions remain attached to the hair and horny layer of the skin. When loosened, they create small particles that can remain airborne for long periods and, when inhaled, cause allergic symptoms in the nose, eyes and respiratory tract. These particles fall slowly and settle on the floor or furniture, but with small movements they become airborne again. This is why patients allergic to animals notice symptoms as soon as they enter homes or places where they are present, even if they are not present at the time. Hair can also cause allergies, but less frequently, as it is deposited on the ground and does not remain in the environment. You can, however, equip yourself with a HEPA-type air purifier type air purifier to minimize the presence of these allergens.

Can hairless animals also cause allergies?

Furry animals are the most common cause of allergy, but allergies to bird feathers and reptile scales have also been described.

There are isolated cases of rhinitis and asthma caused by bird feathers or the use of feather comforters and pillows. In some cases, the allergy has been proven to be due to feather-parasitic mites.

Why are pet allergies becoming more and more common?

The reasons why pet allergy has increased over the last few decades are not fully understood. It is partly linked to current lifestyles in developed countries, where more and more people have pets and spend more time indoors, and where homes are less well ventilated and feature carpets, rugs and objects that act as reservoirs for these allergens, so exposure to allergens is much greater and more prolonged in a population that is more likely to suffer from allergic diseases.

Hereditary factors can contribute to a predisposition to animal allergy. If there is a family history of allergy, particularly in both parents, the risk of developing allergy in the child is high; and if one parent is allergic to an animal, the risk of the child developing allergy to animals is higher.

What's more, people who live with pets are not only exposed to the animal itself, but to many other allergenic or allergy-related substances, such as dust mites, fungi and various other particles that can contaminate the environment.

What is the impact of animal-related allergic diseases on patients' quality of life?

Allergic diseases in general have a significant impact on patients' quality of life, which can be reduced by up to 70-80% compared with the general population, due to sleep disorders, irritability, lack of concentration, limitation of physical effort, deterioration in school and work performance, need for treatment, attendance at medical consultations or emergency services, etc.

Is keeping animals a risk factor for rhinitis and asthma?

It isclearly established that the development of sensitization and allergic symptoms is linked to allergen exposure. The higher the concentration of animal allergens in the home, the greater the likelihood that allergy sufferers will develop asthmatic symptoms, and that these symptoms will be severe. In the case of cats, the probability of suffering asthma if people are sensitized to this animal is 4 to 6 times higher than in non-allergic people.

Is it possible to be allergic to animals even if they are not kept at home?

Yes, you can be allergic to animals even if you've never lived with them before.

Animal allergens are very ubiquitous and are transported in the form of tiny particles, some of which are smaller than 5 microns, which remain airborne for long periods and disperse very easily in the environment. In addition, they are transported attached to people's clothing and hair, so that they accumulate in places such as schools, transport and public buildings, or even in homes where there are no animals, reaching concentrations high enough to give rise to the development of sensitization and cause respiratory symptoms in allergy sufferers. The concentration of these allergens depends on the number of pet owners in the area.

Is it possible to have symptoms without touching or seeing the animal?

Animal dander remains airborne for a long time before settling. This is why, when a person allergic to animals goes into a house where there are animals, even if they are not present at the time, they can inhale these particles and experience symptoms.

Is it possible to be allergic to some breeds of animal and not others?

Occasionally, some allergic patients present symptoms to certain breeds of cat or dog, while tolerating exposure to others.

Studies have shown no difference in the allergens produced by different breeds of dogs, cats or horses, and there are no breed-specific allergens. It is known that some breeds have a higher sebaceous secretion and excrete more dander than others, causing more symptoms; and some animals have shorter coats. But we mustn't forget that the main cause of allergy to animals is the dander they shed when their skin is renewed, whether they have a lot or a little hair.

What are the symptoms of pet allergy?

People allergic to animals, when they breathe in animal particles, may experience the same symptoms as for other environmental allergens, namely rhinitis, conjunctivitis and asthma, manifested by itchy nose or eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, mucus discharge, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. In addition, contact with hair, dander and saliva can cause itching, hives or swelling in the area of skin contact or on the eyelids. If you are allergic to saliva, you may experience symptoms when a person is licked by the animal, or if you touch the animal after it has been licked. Some severe allergic reactions of anaphylaxis have been described following bites from hamsters, rats, gerbils and other rodents, or by wounds or pricks from syringes and lancets contaminated with animal products. In these cases, the allergen in the saliva can enter the bloodstream and trigger a life-threatening generalized allergic reaction.

In people allergic to an animal they live with, daily contact causes progressive inflammation of the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms that may appear and disappear intermittently without being clearly linked to the animal. In addition, this inflammation makes the bronchial tubes more sensitive and reactive to other stimuli, such as exercise, cold air, dust, smoke and pollution, which would not cause symptoms if the bronchial tubes were not previously inflamed due to the animal allergy.

How is animal allergy treated?

The ideal treatment for a pet-allergic patient is to remove the animal from the home and avoid all contact with it.

Removing the animal sounds simple, but it's often not so simple because of the bond between the animal and its owner, especially in the case of cats, or the impossibility of finding a new home or a place to leave the animal. It's even more difficult to avoid contact with animals altogether because of indirect exposure to them, when visiting homes or places where animals are kept, or simply by having contact with people who live with them.

What can be done if the animal is not removed from the home?

If you decide not to remove your pet, a series of measures can be recommended to reduce the amount of allergens produced by the animal and their concentration in the environment:

You should avoid touching the animal and try to wash your hands after doing so.

Don't let them into the bedroom, let alone sleep there.

Pet beds and cushions should be cleaned regularly and placed in a separate area.

The house should be ventilated often, and air purification systems air purification systems containing high-efficiency HEPA filters.

Thorough cleaning of the home with HEPA-filtered vacuum cleanersEspecially mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture and curtains, where animal allergens are most likely to settle.

Dogs and cats should be bathed at least once a week to reduce the amount of allergens accumulated in their dander, although this will only slightly reduce environmental allergen levels.

Wash clothes that have been in contact with animals.

Rub the animal regularly, 2 to 4 times a week, with a damp towel.

There are non-toxic lotions on the market which, when applied once a week to the pet's coat, moisturize it and prevent it from shedding as much dandruff, as they encapsulate dandruff allergens and reduce their concentration to around 15-20%. Before the first application, brush or comb your pet thoroughly to remove as much loose hair as possible. Next, moisten a cloth with the topical lotion and rub thoroughly into the animal's skin. Apply in the direction of the hair, then in the opposite direction.

In any case, all these measures taken together have not proved totally effective, and do not replace the need to remove the pet from the home.

See more information on pet allergies here.

I wish you the best of health!


Owner of Protech Allergies inc.