Do you know that 70 percent of American households own a pet? Here at SinuSonic, we love our furry, feathery, and even our scaly animal friends! Pets are a treasured part of the family.
Unfortunately for many Americans though, their pets can be a major trigger for allergic rhinitis and uncomfortable allergy symptoms. In fact, pet allergies are common— especially among people who have asthma or other allergies. And that number is growing still.
You don’t need to own a pet to have a reaction either! Pet allergens can be easily carried on clothing from outside the home, and into other locations where they affect non-pet owners too.
If you're allergic to your beloved family pet, don’t lose heart. It is possible to coexist, even when you're allergic.
What Causes Pet Allergies?
When you think about pet allergies, you’re likely thinking about allergies to your animal’s fur or pet hair. But pet dander is an even greater source of allergens.
Your pet sheds dead skin flakes daily. That’s animal dander. Their urine, saliva, even their blood can be potential allergens.
You and your pets can spread these allergens throughout the home. Once they stick to soft surfaces like furniture, rugs, or carpet, they’re hard to get rid of and can stick around for months.
If you sleep with your pets, they could be making your nighttime allergies worse. Common allergens such as dander, dust mites, and pollen they carry in on their fur can transfer to your bedding, triggering your symptoms or making them worse.
Pet Allergy Symptoms
Pet allergy symptoms are similar to those you get from hay fever or seasonal allergies. These can include:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
The allergic symptoms you feel are courtesy of your immune system. When irritants enter your body through your nasal passages, your immune system produces a response to remove the offending allergens.
Every animal is a little different, so what is it about your pets that make your allergies flare up? Let's break it down.
If you're allergic to dogs, odds are you're having a reaction to their skin cells— dander— as well as their saliva and urine. Dander and saliva can stick to soft furniture, clothes, bedding, and carpets. They can also become airborne allergens.
Similar to dog allergies, cat allergies are largely caused by dander, saliva, and urine. According to Live Science, cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies— and it’s not because of their fur. Most people with cat allergies are actually reacting to a protein called Fel d 1, which is found on a cat’s skin.
The size and shape of the Fel d 1 protein molecule are what make cat allergies so common. These molecules are extremely sticky, and can stay airborne much longer than dog allergens.
However, an additional allergen may be coming from an unexpected source— your cat's litter box. If you're feeling sniffly or allergic right after cleaning the litter box, then that's likely the source of your problems— not your kitty.
Many cat litters produce dust, which can become airborne and cause irritation. Not only that, but some cat litters use perfumes or other chemicals to reduce odor— which can also cause allergic reactions.
Fortunately, there are hypoallergenic varieties of cat litter available. These often advertise themselves as being low-dust or dust-free, or feature litter made from organic or recycled material. Give one of these a try if you think your cat's current litter is causing your symptoms.
You may think of cats and dogs initially, but all kinds of pets can cause allergies.
Allergies to Uncommon or Exotic Pets
13 percent of American households own uncommon or exotic pets— including rodents, reptiles, spiders, and birds. Pet allergies are rarely caused by animals that don't have fur, but that doesn't mean these pets cannot cause allergy symptoms.
Similar to dog and cat allergies, these pets can also produce dander that can trigger your allergies. They may also present their own unique allergens. Here's what to know about exotic pets and their allergens.
Reptiles like lizards, turtles, and snakes generally live in controlled environments like tanks and terrariums where they can live warmly and comfortably. Like any pet though, shedded skin flakes from reptiles can become airborne.
Fun fact— reptiles shed entire layers of old skin so that they can grow. This is called molting.
Another factor that can cause allergies in reptile owners is actually not the pet themselves— but their food! Live food for reptiles— including crickets and other creepy-crawlies— can trigger symptoms in anyone who may have an insect allergy.
Birds are very beautiful and challenging pets to keep. They can be especially challenging if you have a pet allergy. That's because their dander, feathers, and feces can all be allergy triggers.
Most pet birds belong to the parrot family, but other pet birds may include canaries, finches, chickens, ducks, and geese. To make matters more confusing, some birds produce more dander than others.
For example, parrot species like African Greys or Cockatiels may produce a lot of dander, while species like Macaws or Budgies— better known as parakeets— produce significantly less.
Similar to reptiles, birds will also periodically molt their feathers. However, birds molt their old, worn feathers to replace them with new ones— unlike reptiles who molt to grow.
Rodents and Small Mammals
Some popular pets from the Rodent family include hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and chinchillas. Like with previous furry examples, their hair, dander, saliva, and urine can potentially lead to allergic reactions.
Small mammals like ferrets and rabbits can also cause allergies with their fur, dander, et cetera. But because these small animals typically live in a cage, most of their dander will stay within the boundaries of the cage.
Other Uncommon Pets
There are so many uncommon pets out there, it would be impossible to name them all. Just a few of them include:
- Pigs— including teacup pigs or pot-bellied pigs
- Monkeys— including capuchins and marmosets
- Goats— including miniature goats or standard-sized breeds
- Spiders— such as tarantulas
- Amphibians— including frogs, toads, or axolotls
- Fish— including goldfish and bettas
All of these pets could potentially trigger an allergic reaction because of the dander or excrement they leave behind. With fish though, it's a little different.
If you have a general allergy to fish, then they would not be the right pet for you. On the other hand, some pet owners have had allergic reactions to fish food. Or more accurately, they have had reactions to some of the organisms used to make the fish food. According to one study, some of the offending organisms causing reactions included red midge larva, freshwater shrimp, and earthworms.
Is There Such a Thing as "Hypoallergenic Pets?"
There's been a lot of talk in recent years about hypoallergenic dogs and cats. In fact, for many breeds, that may even be the main draw! But is there such a thing as hypoallergenic pets?
Unfortunately, no pet is truly "hypoallergenic—" not even hairless pets. However, some breeds are more allergy-friendly than others. This is because they may shed less fur, or produce fewer irritants that may produce an allergic reaction.
A few "allergy-friendly" dog breeds include:
- Airedale terriers
- West Highland White terriers
Some "allergy-friendly" cat breeds include:
- Russian Blue
- Sphynx— also known as hairless cats
- Cornish Rex
If you have a pet allergy and you still want an animal companion, these would be good choices. Otherwise, pets like amphibians, reptiles, and fish are relatively allergy-free also.
Scientists are even coming close to creating truly hypoallergenic cats! This will be thanks to the science of gene editing, eliminating the protein that triggers many cat allergies. So a life without pet allergies may be possible in the future. Until then though, it's still possible to coexist with all kinds of pets— even if you're allergic to pet dander.
How to Enjoy Your Pet's Companionship— Even With Pet Allergies
Pet lovers rejoice! You can still enjoy your furry friend's companionship without being in misery from your allergies. Here's how:
- After you play with your pet, wash your hands. This removes any dander or saliva that may be on your hands.
- Clean litterboxes, tanks, or cages once a week. Change any tank or cage lining every other day if your pet is messy.
- Use proper protection when you clean your cat's litterbox. Wearing a mask and rubber gloves significantly reduces the number of allergens you're exposed to.
- Similarly, use proper protection while cleaning your bird's cage, or reptile's tank.
- Keep your pets off the furniture, and off the bed. Give your pets a comfortable place to sleep outside of your bedroom. This is especially important if you suffer from nighttime allergies.
- Bathe your dogs often.
- Brush furry pets often to help reduce how much they shed.
- Dust and vacuum weekly. This keeps any lingering allergens around your home to a minimum.
- Use SinuSonic if you're feeling congested. Our unique device treats nasal congestion naturally with gentle vibrations— not with drugs or nasal sprays.
Related: How to Allergy-Proof Your Home
In The Dog House With Your Allergies?
Nothing should come between you and your pets, especially not pet allergies. Use your SinuSonic twice a day for 2 minutes to reduce nasal congestion and stuffiness common with pet allergies.
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Konkel, Lindsey. “Nothing to Sneeze at: Cats Worse than Dogs for Allergies.” LiveScience, Purch, 30 May 2013, www.livescience.com/36578-cat-worse-dogs-allergies-pets.html.
Arce, J Meseguer, et al. “Occupational Allergy to Aquarium Fish Food: Red Midge Larva, Freshwater Shrimp, and Earthworm. A Clinical and Immunological Study.” Journal of Investigational Allergology & Clinical Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24654310/.
Cara, Ed. “Scientists Are Inching Closer to Creating Truly Hypoallergenic Cats.” Gizmodo, Gizmodo, 28 Mar. 2022, gizmodo.com/hypoallergenic-cats-crispr-gene-editing-1848713100.