6 min read

Is My Pet Allergic To Me?

Dogs and cats can be just as sneezy as their owners.

An estimated 10 percent of the world’s population is allergic to household pets, but can our pets have the same reaction to us?

According to Becca Falender, veterinarian at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Portland, Oregon, a dog or cat being allergic to his owner is unlikely — but it does occasionally happen.

“It is possible for pets to be allergic to human dander, but it’s very rare,” Falender told The Dodo. Oftentimes, if a pet is displaying allergic symptoms in the presence of certain humans, it’s not their skin or hair that’s to blame. The scented products we use, such as perfumes, cleaning sprays or even a topical medication are far more likely culprits — so it may be time to switch to a different detergent.

Approximately 10 percent of dogs suffer from allergies, CNN reported, which can prove challenging when fall and spring roll around. “The most common type of allergy in pets is seasonal, mainly caused by airborne environmental allergens like dust, pollen, mold and dander,” Falender noted. “However, pets can also be allergic to a variety of things they encounter in their daily life.”

What to look for

For humans, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and many of us are all too familiar with the itchy, watery eyes and runny nose brought on by seasonal allergies. However, pets often display different allergic symptoms, so it’s helpful to know what to look for.

A dog or cat’s allergies will often present as a skin reaction, Falender explained, though sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, vomiting or diarrhea could also suggest a sensitivity to food or environment. “They can experience itchiness and inflammation of the skin, inflamed or infected ears, hair loss, open sores or scabbing, swollen paws, and itchy or runny eyes,” Falender said. “You’ll start to see your pet excessively scratch, lick, bite or chew on their skin, or they may continuously rub up against walls, furniture, carpet or other surfaces.”

Pet owners who notice any of these signs should bring their dog or cat to a veterinarian immediately. “Skin reactions can cause your pet a great amount of discomfort, and they can result in injuries and infections if not treated,” Falender added.

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Treatment

Treatment will depend on what is causing the reaction. If your pet’s allergy is easy to avoid, like certain foods or medication, then a simple change of diet may fix the issue.

If a pet’s allergy is environmental, time-consuming steps may need to be taken to lessen the effects of allergies. Falender recommends bathing your pet frequently to remove environmental allergens and foot soaks to prevent tracking allergens indoors. Regularly laundering pet bedding, and frequently vacuuming and cleaning any furniture that collects dust, can also help prevent a furry friend from sneezing or itching, Falender said.

As with humans, pets with severe allergic conditions may have to go on a special diet, or require anti-inflammatory medicine prescribed by a vet. “There are also newer therapies that are more targeted, such as immunotherapy and injections given every few weeks,” Falender added.

While keeping the house spotless can be an awful lot of work, it will not only reduce your pet’s allergic reactions, but provide a comfortable environment for all family members who get sniffly in the springtime or fall.