According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats live in homes in the United States. That means that nearly 44% of all households have a dog and 35% have a cat. In case you haven't noticed, there are more cats than dogs per household.
That's an incredible amount of fur, skin and pet dander in our homes. This is a problem for people who are allergic to cats or dogs. But can you be allergic to one and not the other? Is it possible to be allergic to dogs and live in a house full of cats?
What causes allergies?
Pet allergy, like any allergy, is caused by a confused immune system. It is a terrible case of mistaken identity. The body is exposed to harmless pieces of protein from the environment. Instead of recognizing these proteins as innocent, the immune system mistakenly identifies them as germs and creates antibodies to attack them.
Just as the body creates antibodies following exposure to a disease (such as measles), it creates antibodies in response to this protein. These antibodies are called human immunoglobulin E or IgE for short. In the case of germs, this means that the body is ready for war the next time it is exposed. Unfortunately for the allergic person, the body goes to war with every exposure to harmless proteins.
In other words, every time you are exposed to the protein, the body thinks it has to fight a germ. That's why allergies can cause the same sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and itching or watery eyes that accompany a cold. Allergies also cause inflammation. This inflammation can also lead to eczema, fluid in the inner ear and even asthma.
Causes of pet allergy
Pet allergy is caused by proteins produced by furry animals. In cats, the main allergenic protein in cats is Fel d 1. Cats produce this protein in their saliva and sebaceous glands. The glands cover their skin with this protein. The protein in the skin spreads to their fur. The protein is also found in the urine. Cats also produce albumin, a protein commonly found in eggs and blood. Allergy to this protein is not as common.
Dogs produce Can f 1 in their saliva. This is the protein that causes allergic reactions in humans. Unlike cats, dogs do not produce the problematic protein in their skin. However, when dogs lick their skin or fur, they spread the protein from their saliva to their fur. As a result, the skin and fur end up being coated with the protein.
As you can see, the proteins are totally different, but the problem is the same.
Is it possible to be allergic to cats and not dogs?
Yes, it is possible to be allergic to cats and not dogs. You can be allergic to dogs and not to cats. However, the proteins are similar. If you are allergic to one furry mammal, you are probably allergic to most others.
People who are allergic to cats and dogs don't realize that they are probably also allergic to horses, goats and rabbits. Most Americans are not exposed to these animals on a regular basis and therefore have not had the opportunity to create the antibody.
Because each animal produces different amounts of this protein, you may have a terrible allergic reaction to one cat but not another. In another situation, you may be mildly allergic to a dog that produces a small amount of protein, but react strongly to a cat that produces more.
Remember that cats have the protein in their saliva and on their skin. Since cats spend almost 30% of their time grooming, they strive to spread the protein in their saliva over as much of their body as possible. This is why cats seem to be more allergenic than dogs. They simply produce more of the problem protein and spend a lot of time spreading it around.
Never be convinced by the claim that a cat or dog is hypoallergenic. If the animal is alive, it produces the allergenic protein in its saliva. In the case of cats, their glands are also producing it.
How do pet allergens spread?
Whether it's the cat's allergen or the dog's allergen, it leaves the animal and becomes airborne. Once it is airborne, it is either inhaled or stuck to the first surface it touches. This could be a wall, a chair, a lamp, even a shirt or the skin of its owner. No matter what it touches, as soon as it is disturbed, it is back in the air.
As long as the protein is in the air, there is a chance you will inhale it. Inhaling the allergen triggers the allergic reaction.
If a dog licks you, you get a direct dose of the allergen. In addition, dried saliva can flake off pet toys and beds and become airborne. The airborne allergen can stick to anything.
Cat allergen can be found in hospitals, airplanes and other places where you wouldn't expect to find it. In fact, cat owners wear a layer of this allergen on their clothes, skin and hair. Cat owners drop this allergen everywhere they go.
Dog owners do the same thing, but because dogs don't produce the same amount of allergen, dog owners don't spread as much.
Can you live with pets and a pet allergy?
Depending on your level of sensitivity and the amount of allergens your pet produces, it is possible to live with pets and pet allergies. Studies have shown that infants exposed to animals have stronger immune systems.
Living with pets and pet allergies means staying on top of allergens.
Vacuum and dust frequently while wearing a mask. Do not allow pets in the bedroom. Use a HEPA-filtered air purifier of the right size for the room. Groom your pets with Allerpet solution for cats or dogs. If you have carpets, spray them regularly with a solution that will neutralize the protein. Allersearch ADMS and Ecology Works Antiallergen Solution are both easy to use.
It is possible to live with dogs and be allergic to cats and vice versa. Our daughter is allergic to cats and has had them her whole life. Either way, if you have pets and are allergic, you need to learn how to reduce allergen levels.
I wish you the best of health