Pet Allergies and Hypoallergenic Pets

border collie lying on a gray couch

People and pets alike are affected by allergies. It’s important for every pet parent to know how to spot the symptoms of allergies* and how to treat them. Plus, get tips on what to do if you think you or a member of your household are allergic to pets.

Allergies in Pets

Allergies in pets are caused the same way as allergies in people – when their immune system mistakes substances in the environment to be harmful and tries to fight them.

According to our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), 15-20 percent of pets may suffer from an allergy. Your pet could be allergic to things like pollen, dust, mold, smoke, dander, grass, perfume, and certain foods or ingredients.

Besides being allergic to grass, pets can also have reactions to plants if they consume particular ones. In order to help keep your dog safe, read up on these 15 plants that are toxic to dogs.

Dog allergy symptoms and cat allergy symptoms present themselves in a similar fashion. If you think your pal may have a sensitivity, keep an eye out for the following pet allergy symptoms:

Just as people have similar symptoms between allergies and colds, dogs can also have overlapping signs of allergies and colds. Learn how to recognize the signs if your dog is sick.

Diagnosis

Contact allergies can be diagnosed using a blood sample or by performing an intradermal skin test. If the veterinarian you visit for allergy testing decides to take a blood sample, it will be tested in a laboratory for a reaction against different allergens. Your veterinarian may recommend a veterinary dermatologist to do the intradermal skin testing, but some veterinarians will perform the testing in their clinic.

An intradermal skin test is when a small number of various antigens, toxins that induce an immune system response, are injected into the skin to see if they cause a reaction.  A skin reaction caused by one of the injected antigens would appear as a small, reddish bump, resembling a mosquito bite. This allergy test for pets is similarly performed on humans, so you can rest assured it is safe.

Food allergies are sometimes diagnosed using a blood sample, but veterinarians usually will recommend an elimination diet to determine what substance is causing a reaction. This may include switching to a prescription or hydrolyzed protein food, which does not contain any allergy-triggering ingredients.

The elimination diet should be followed until your pet’s symptoms go away completely. If your veterinarian prescribes an elimination diet, it is critical that you do feed only the recommended diet.  Even a small treat could change the outcome of the diet.

Once your dog or cat is no longer having flare-ups, your veterinarian may recommend slowly reintroducing foods that were previously part of their diet to see if any of them cause the symptoms to come back. Then, bingo! You’ll know exactly which food to avoid.

Are you a new pet parent taking your four-legged friend to the veterinarian for the first time? Read about what to expect for your pet’s first veterinary visit.

Treatment

The best treatment for your pet’s allergies depends on what is causing them. If your pet’s flare-ups come from airborne allergens, your vet will likely recommend allergy shots to help your pet build up resistance to the allergens. Special shampoos and sprays containing aloe, oatmeal, and other skin-soothing ingredients may also control the itch.

Keeping a dust-free home can help alleviate allergies caused by dust, dander, pollen, or other outdoor allergens. Regularly bathing your pet can also really help ease the itchy-scratchies. It will clear the irritating particles away from your pet’s skin to prevent reactions.  

A prescription shampoo from your veterinarian may come in handy for frequent baths. Excessive shampooing can further dry out and aggravate your pet’s skin, so you’ll want something that won’t strip away the natural moisture.

Veterinarians may suggest certain bagged or canned foods for pets with food allergies that don’t contain the ingredients inducing their flare-ups. In some instances, it may be advised to feed home-cooked meals to pets with food allergies.

woman lying on couch while blowing her nose and looking at a golden retriever

Pet Allergies in People

Are you or a member of your household experiencing allergy symptoms around your pet? A pet's hair, dander, and saliva can cause allergic reactions in humans, but something concentrated in the pet’s fur, like dust or pollen, may also be at the root of the problem.

Seeing a doctor for allergy testing is the only way to determine if it’s the pet or particles in the pet’s fur causing you or a family member to have a reaction.

Regularly bathing a pet may help keep the allergens out of their fur. Preventative methods, like allergy medications, regular house cleaning, or limited interaction between the afflicted individual and your pet, may help alleviate mild to moderate reactions to the pet itself.

Try these additional tips to love your pet without the itching and sneezing:

The ASPCA offers great advice on how to handle pet allergies in your home. Also, did you know pets can actually help protect kids from developing allergies? Learn more about why kids and pets make a perfect pairing.

Hypoallergenic Pets

Are you considering a furry addition to your family? If you or one of your human family members have pet allergies, you might want to look into breeds that shed less.

Lightly-shedding dogs and cats may produce fewer allergens. But, since the proteins found in dog and cat hair that trigger allergic reactions are also found in their saliva and skin, hypoallergenic pets can still cause a reaction for some people.

Here are a few hypoallergenic breeds that could make great companions for those affected by heavy shedding:

Dogs

Cats

Notice a pattern in the listed breeds? That’s because most pets considered to be hypoallergenic either have curly, coarse coats or are pretty much hairless. Another factor that might help a breed be a hypoallergenic pet is them having a lower level of protein in the fur. It’s good to keep all these things in mind during your search for a new companion if allergens are a concern.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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