People who suffer from pet allergies have:
Rashes when touching pets, or after being licked by a pet,
Itchy eyes and tearing
Which pets can cause allergies?
Any furry pets can cause allergies.
For furry pets, hair is not always the only allergen or the main allergen. For example, for
dogs the major allergens are found in dog hair, skin and saliva. In rodents, like rabbits and
mice, urine is the main allergen source.
Pet allergens are species specific. For example, cat - has cat hair allergen which is specific
to all cats.
Are there any non-allergenic pets?
The only pets that are not allergenic are fish and reptiles, like snakes and turtles.
All other pets can cause allergies. Birds can also cause allergies.
If you are allergic to pets, what can you do?
Remove the pet from the house.
This is a difficult option for most families to do. You have to remember that even after the pet is removed from the house it can take up to 6 months for the allergen levels to decrease.
Putting the pet outside, if the climate allows. I live in Israel and have 3 cats that live in the garden.
What about minimizing pet allergens when the pet remains in the house?
This may not be 100% effective and will depend on the pet and your symptoms.
Here are some things you can do:
- HEPA Air Filters.
Most pet allergens are small and stay in the air for a long time. HEPA air filters remove
the particles the size of pet allergens from the air.
These filters have to be appropriately sized for the room.
- Focus on the bedroom.
Keep your pets outside your bedroom and run a HEPA filter in the bedroom
continuously – essentially creating a relative “pet allergen free zone” in your home.
In homes with pets, the amount of dust mites is greater, so keeping your pet outside
your bedroom will decrease dust mite numbers as well.
- Other suggestions:
Keeping windows open to air out the house, unless you have seasonal allergies.
Washing your pet regularly, may decrease the amount of allergen that is being shed.
You must consult with your veterinarian first.
There are no non-allergenic cats. Even hairless cats have allergens. The source of cat
allergen in their hair, saliva and dander (skin). To my knowledge, there are no research
studies comparing allergen amount between different cat breeds.
What about hypoallergenic dog breeds?
Hypoallergenic breeds of dogs do not shed hair. They still have allergens in their dander and
saliva. The largest study to date comparing dog allergen content in homes of people with
regular and hypoallergenic dog breeds, did not find a significant difference between them.
We are still learning about dog allergy. Recent study found that male dogs are more
allergenic than female dogs, mostly because up to 70% of people allergic to dogs are
exclusively allergic to a protein found in dog prostate.
Bottom line on dog allergy:
If you are allergic to dogs, ideally do not have a dog, especially if you have asthma or
eczema. If you want to have a dog, hypoallergenic, small, female dogs may be better.
Before you get a pet
Spend some time with your potential pet by pet sitting, visiting a breeder or volunteering in a
shelter. If you have any symptoms suspicious of allergy, see an allergist and have allergy
testing to see to which pets you are allergic to and what are your options.
If you have a pet allergy and have a pet at home. When putting your pet outside or removing
them from home are not viable options, use avoidance measures described above. If you
still have problems, allergy medications and immunotherapy will help reduce your allergy
Dr. Irena Offengenden