Pets like dogs and cats can cause allergies

Pet allergy symptoms: causes and remedies

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on March 24, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


From an itchy and runny nose to watery eyes and difficulty breathing, pet allergies are common—but uncomfortable. Symptoms of pet allergies affect roughly 1 in 3 Americans who have allergies. Whether you have a pet at home, or have come into contact with pet allergens some other way, becoming aware of pet allergy symptoms and their specific causes can help you figure out the best remedies that work for you.

(And whether you're experiencing spring allergies, environmental allergies, or animal allergies, an at-home allergy test can help you find out what's causing your symptoms.)

Common symptoms

Swelling and itching

Two of the most common reactions to animal allergies are swelling and itchiness in the nose and the membranes around the eyes. This particular symptom will often involve a stuffy nose and/or eye inflammation.


Sneezing

Starting to sneeze after coming into contact with a pet is another possible symptom of pet allergies.


Skin reaction

When it comes to dog allergies and cat allergies, some people experience a skin reaction. This can develop as a rash on the face, neck, or upper chest.


Wheezing and coughing

Wheezing and coughing, along with tightness in the chest and shortness of breath, are also common pet allergy symptoms. Experiencing an ongoing, lingering cough is also typical.


Fatigue

With untreated allergies, some people might experience fatigue and lethargy. But fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting have to do with illnesses and infections, instead of pet allergy symptoms, and should be assessed by a healthcare professional.

Common causes

The most common causes of allergic reactions brought on by pets are proteins found in pet fur, pet saliva, pet dander (dead skin), and pet urine.

Pet allergy symptoms can also be caused by dust mites or pollen in the fur of a pet. Allergens like these are typically harmless substances—but in people with allergies, they cause the immune system to overreact. When the immune system overreacts, this leads to a variety of uncomfortable allergic symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and itchiness. If you have a pet or dust mite allergy, cleaning your home (and your animal friend) frequently can help reduce your symptoms.

Even if you don’t own a pet or aren't exposed to one directly, you can still experience pet allergy symptoms. That’s because another common cause of allergen exposure occurs through people’s clothing: allergens can travel on clothes and—depending on allergen levels—can lead to symptoms.

Experiencing symptoms of pet allergies can also have a genetic basis: allergies commonly run in families where multiple family members have allergic reactions to pet dander, saliva, or other allergens.

Allergy remedies

Bathing

If you’re a pet owner, try to bathe your pets at least once a week. This can help reduce airborne pet allergens.


HEPA vacuum cleaners

HEPA filter vacuums are ideal for cleaning dust and dander. Aim to vacuum at least once a week to help reduce your pet allergy symptoms.


Hand washing

Any time you come into contact with a dog or cat, wash your hands immediately. Avoid touching your eyes or your face until you do so.


Heating and air conditioning

Cover the vents of your heating and air conditioning systems with a filtering material when they’re in use. Dense materials, like cheesecloths, work well. Regularly changing the filters on air conditioners and heaters can also help.


Laundry

Make sure to frequently wash rugs, pet beds, and furniture covers in hot water, as pet allergens can lurk within fabric.


Flooring

If you’re allergic, but want to live alongside your pet long-term (who doesn't?), consider installing wood or tiled flooring as opposed to wall-to-wall carpet because this can help reduce allergens.


Cleaning

When you’re dusting and cleaning, wear a face mask to protect you from allergens. Better yet, consider asking someone without pet allergies to help with dusting and cleaning.


Humidity

Dry air can trigger allergies because it takes away some of the protective layer of mucus in your sinuses. Aim to keep the humidity level in your home at about 40 percent.


Air filter

Invest in an air filter to help capture airborne particles and reduce indoor air pollution.


Nasal lavage

Nasal lavage is a home remedy for pet allergies that uses saltwater to rinse the nasal passages. It reduces congestion, postnasal drip, and sneezing. It can be made at home by combining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup of distilled water.


Essential oils

For a natural remedy, some people turn to essential oils to help with allergies. Oils like peppermint may help reduce allergic inflammation. Keep in mind that essential oils can trigger allergies for some people, so it’s always good to do a test patch with a carrier oil (like coconut or olive oil) if you’re using the oil on your skin.


Professional help

An allergist or immunologist who has specialized training can help diagnose your symptoms and recommend medications and/or a treatment plan for your allergies. Additionally, they can help identify what allergens are in the air today that may be triggering your symptoms.

Conclusion

From swelling and itching to sneezing and skin reactions, pet allergy symptoms are common—but they can also be alleviated by taking the right steps.

If you aren't sure if you have pet allergies, but still experience allergy symptoms, the Everlywell at-home Indoor & Outdoor Allergy Test can help you better understand what allergens might be at fault. The easy-to-use test lets you collect your sample at home and get physician-reviewed results sent to your device in a matter of days.


We’re exposing indoor and outdoor allergies

How to welcome the spring season without the allergy attacks

5 ways to prevent dust mite allergies

Indoor and outdoor airborne allergens: what are they and how to prevent them

Indoor vs. outdoor allergies: top tips for managing symptoms

Is it a cold or allergies?

Fact or fiction? Top 5 truths about allergies you need to know


References

1. Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats? Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. URL. Accessed March 31, 2020.

2. Allergies to animals: Overview. InformedHealth.org. URL. Published 2017. Accessed March 31, 2020.

3. Pet Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. URL. Accessed March 13, 2020.

4. Cold, Flu, or Allergy? NIH News in Health. URL. Published 2014. Accessed March 31, 2020.

5. Pet Allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. URL. Accessed March 13, 2020.

6. Pet allergy. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 31, 2020.

7. Pet allergy. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 31, 2020.

8. Pet Allergens. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. URL. Accessed March 31, 2020.

9. Allergy-proof your home. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 31, 2020.

10. Saltwater Washes (Nasal Saline Lavage or Irrigation) for Sinusitis. University of Michican, Michigan Medicine. URL. Accessed March 31, 2020.

11. Mentha Piperita (Peppermint). Dermatitis. URL. Published 2010. Accessed March 31, 2020.

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