Close (x)

PET PROBLEMS from Overlake Hospital


By Britton L. Georges, MD
Overlake-affiliated physician

Pets bring their owners tremendous comfort, joy and companionship, but for some, they also bring itchy, watery eyes and sniffles. In the United States, pet ownership is extremely common—more than 50 percent of homes include a cat, a dog or both. Sensitivity to pets is also common. A recent study showed 17 percent of people had a positive skin allergy test to cats. Pet owners, however, are no more likely to be allergic than non-owners because cat and dog allergens can be detected in almost all American homes and public places such as school classrooms. If you have pet allergies, you should be relieved to know there are several ways to manage your symptoms so you can continue to enjoy your cat, dog or other pet.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Pet allergies are caused by antibodies directed against proteins produced by an animal’s sebaceous and salivary glands. The main reservoirs of this allergen are the pets’ skin and fur. When shed, these allergens can remain airborne for weeks. That is why people with pet allergies can sneeze immediately when walking into a home with pets.

People allergic to pets can develop allergic rhinitis or asthma, or both. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy/watery eyes and postnasal drip. Asthma symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and exercise-induced asthma.

If you have symptoms suggesting you may be allergic, you should see your doctor who may recommend skin or blood tests to confirm an allergy. Your physician will then correlate the results of the skin test with your symptoms to determine the cause and recommend treatment.

Most allergic people won’t consider parting ways with their beloved pets, but usually need treatment to alleviate their symptoms. Allergy treatment includes avoidance, medications and immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Avoidance is always the best treatment for allergies. The following are recommended to help reduce exposure to pet allergens:
  • Keep pets outdoors, if possible.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom at all times (Having a cat in the room increases the volume of airborne allergens more than five times).
  • Eliminate wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible, in favor of hardwood or laminate flooring.
  • Choose leather over upholstered furniture.
  • Use protective casings around mattresses and pillows.
  • Use a portable HEPA air purifier system (best used in rooms without carpeting).
  • Wash walls.
  • Bathe pets frequently.
Medications for pet allergies include oral, non-sedating antihistamines, antihistamine nasal sprays, cortisone nasal sprays and several asthma medications.

Immunotherapy can work very well and involves injections of pet allergen to alter the immune system and reduce allergen sensitivity. Injections are given for years to patients for whom medications are not helpful or desired. A new oral form of immunotherapy may also be available in the future.

People often feel their pets are “hypoallergenic.” All pets are probably allergenic, but studies have shown that some pets may produce 20 times more allergenic protein than others, which probably explains why some pets may be less bothersome than others. In cats, testosterone enhances the production of this protein, so male cats may cause more symptoms than females.

If you are considering getting a pet, but concerned you may be allergic, consider getting tested or at least spending some time with a friend’s pet. If you already own a pet and are allergic to it, be sure to manage your allergy so you don’t develop anything more serious, like severe asthma, and so you can continue to enjoy your pet.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

« BACK | PAGE: 1

Comments Closed

Bellevue North Shopping Center

Gordon James Fine Diamonds