Millions of American dog and cat owners struggle with the love of their pets and the problems that allergic sensitivities to them can cause. Allergic reactions to animals include:
- Itchy eyes
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Eczema and/or hives.
Although cats and dogs trigger the most allergic responses, hamsters, gerbils and rabbits are also becoming popular pets. Mice used in research can also be an occupational exposure. Exposure to cattle, horses, chickens, hogs — especially in confined spaces — can cause respiratory and skin symptoms.
Testing for pet allergies is typically done by skin tests. Sometimes we use blood testing for IgE allergy antibodies to various animal danders.
We treat specific animal allergies with drops under the tongue by using the same extracts used for allergy shots. Most patients with animal allergies respond well to allergy drop treatment. The decision about whether people can keep their pets depends on the severity of reaction when exposed, but many are able to find a way to keep their furry family members and live without symptoms.
In most cases we can successfully treat the allergy with the animal in the home, though it often requires a longer course of treatment than if the animal is not in the home. Before getting an indoor pet, consider allergy testing. A mild to moderate animal allergy tends to respond more quickly if it is treated before the animal is brought into the home.
Dr. Mary Morris’ three daughters all had mild to moderate allergies to dogs when they were young. It took about 1 1/2 years to treat their allergies before Dr. Mary let them get their first dog, Tilly. They have now been joined by Maddie and Annabelle. Although Dr. Mary continues to do her best to keep the dog hair in the house to a reasonable level, only one person in the family has any allergy problems around the dogs.