"Adopt an Animal       

                 Gain a Friend"



About Us
Animals to Adopt
How You Can Help
Spay & Neuter
Pet Health
Pet Behavior
Feral Cats
Animal-Friendly Housing
Your Pet's Future
Allergies to Pets
Did You Know
Speaker's Podium
Web Master
Make A Donation


Be sure to check our current pictures of animals awaiting adoption!.


Allergies to Pets


Allergies to Pets

How many people are allergic to pets?

According to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) (http://www.hsus.org/ace/11778) approximately 15% of the population is allergic to dogs or cats.  An estimated 1/3 of Americans who are allergic to cats (about 2 million people) live with at least one cat in their household anyway.  In a study of 341 adults who were allergic to cats or dogs and had been advised by their physicians to give up their pets, only 1 out of 5 did.  What’s more, 122 of them obtained another pet after a previous one had died.

All dogs and cats can cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to animals.  Contrary to popular belief, there are no “non-allergenic” breeds of dogs or cats; even hairless breeds may be highly allergenic.  Furthermore, one dog or cat of a particular breed may be more irritating to an individual allergy sufferer than another animal of that same breed.

Additionally, allergies to pets can be complicated by simultaneous allergies to other substances in a person’s environment.  Therefore, those who are experiencing allergic reactions need to look at many potential sources of allergens in their environment.

If you know that you have allergies to animals and want to adopt a pet, you should make this decision carefully and consider whether your decision is fair to you and to the animal.  Except in the case of children who sometimes outgrow allergies, few adult allergy sufferers become accustomed to pets to whom they are allergic.  Many pet owners end upon giving up their pets after deciding that they cannot live with the allergic symptoms.  Such a decision is both difficult for the pet owner and can mean the end of the pet’s life if the pet is given up to a shelter.

Pets Can Prevent the Development of Allergies

Evidence suggests that the presence of potential allergens in the environment may prevent the development of allergies in children.  A recent (September, 2002) article in the New England Journal of Medicine studied children ages 6 – 13 in rural areas of Germany, Austria and Switzerland and found that the greater the amount of endotoxins in the children’s mattresses the lower the occurrence of hay fever, asthma and allergies.  Endotoxins are organic compounds found in the walls of bacteria.  They are found, for instance, in the dust, dirt and environments where farm animals reside and are thought to stimulate the immune system thus allowing the children to protect themselves from the development of allergies.

In an editorial accompanying that article, Scott Weiss, MD writes that “a number of environmental factors are known to be associated with a lower incidence of allergic disease in early life. …[T]he presence, from before birth onward, of a dog or other pet in the home and attendance at day care during the first year of life are … environmental factors that protect against the development of allergies and allergic asthma in childhood.”

Similarly, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (August 28, 2002) concluded that children exposed to 2 or more indoor pets in their first year of life were half as likely to develop allergies to cats, dogs and common irritants such as dust mites and pollen than those who were not exposed to pets in their first year of life.

Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills of the allergy division of the University of Virginia has said that studies have suggested that removing a cat from a home can actually cause a previously non-feline allergic child to become allergic to cats.  According to Dr. Thomas-Plat, if the parents of a child allergic to dust mites and pollen – but not to cat dander – give up their cat, either because they don’t know the child’s specific allergies or because they want to remove any possible sources of allergen, that child may then go on to develop cat allergies.

The medical journal The Lancet (September, 2002) studied children of asthmatic and nonasthmatic mothers.  Among the children of nonasthmatic mothers, those who had been around cats were 40 percent less likely to experience persistent wheezing than those who had not been exposed to cats.  However, among the children of asthmatic mothers, those children exposed to cats where actually 3 times as likely to develop persistent wheezing by age five.

Ways to Prevent or Decrease Allergic Reactions to Pets

If allergic reactions are making someone in your home miserable, but the allergic reactions are not life-threatening, there are several steps that you can take to eliminate or at least lessen those allergic reactions.  Much of the following is taken from the HSUS website (http://www.hsus.org/ace/11778). 

1.  Don’t be quick to blame the family pet for allergies.  Ask your allergist to specifically test for allergies to pet dander, rather than making an assumption.  And understand that allergies are cumulative.  Many allergy sufferers are sensitive to more than one allergen.  So, if you are allergic to dust, pollen, cigarette smoke and cat dander, you will need to reduce all of these potential allergens.  Reducing many of them at once may greatly reduce allergic reactions without having to find a new home for the pet in the house.

2.  Create an “allergy-free” zone in the home – preferably the bedroom – and strictly prohibit the pet’s access to it.  Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner (available at almost any home and garden store or discount department store) in the bedroom.

3.  Consider impermeable covers (such as zippered, plastic casings) for the mattress and pillows because allergen particles brought into the room on clothes and other objects can accumulate in mattresses and pillows.

4.  Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of the home.  (As noted above, HEPA air cleaners are available at many home and garden shops and discount department stores.) 

5.  Avoid dust-and-dander-catching furnishing such a cloth curtains and blinds and carpeted floors.  Replace cloth upholstery with alternative non-leather coverings. 

6.  Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander.  Wash articles such a couch covers, bedding, pillows, curtains and pet beds frequently.  Use a vacuum with a filter designed specifically to trap allergens. 

7.  Bathe your pet once or twice weekly.  This can reduce the level of allergens on fur by as much as 84%.  Even cats can become accustomed to being bathed.  Use whatever shampoo your veterinarian recommends.

8.  Allergy shots (immunotherapy) can improve symptoms.  They work by gradually desensitizing a person’s immune system to the pet allergens.  See an allergist for his/her recommendations regarding these shots.

9.  Medical therapies to lessen the symptoms of allergic reactions can also be very useful.  These include antihistamines, steroids, and asthma medications in pill and inhaler forms.  Almost every year brings new, more effective and safer medications for allergies.  You should follow the advise and recommendations of a general medical physician or an allergy specialist who understands your commitment to living with your pet.



Copyright © [2003]  [Little Buddies Adoption and Humane Society].