Pet allergy

Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal's skin cells, saliva or urine. Signs of pet allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Some people may also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Most often, pet allergy is triggered by exposure to the dead flakes of skin (dander) a pet sheds. Any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergy, but pet allergies are most commonly associated with cats, dogs, rodents and horses.

If you have a pet allergy, the best strategy is to avoid or reduce exposure to the animal as much as possible. Medications or other treatments may be necessary to relieve symptoms and manage asthma.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Pet allergy signs and symptoms caused by inflammation of nasal passages include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Cough
  • Facial pressure and pain
  • Frequent awakening
  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes
  • In a child, frequent upward rubbing of the nose

If your pet allergy contributes to asthma, you may also experience:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing

Skin symptoms

Some people with pet allergy may also experience skin symptoms. Allergic dermatitis is an immune system reaction that causes skin inflammation. Direct contact with an allergy-causing pet may trigger allergic dermatitis signs and symptoms, which may include:

  • Raised, red patches of skin (hives)
  • Eczema
  • Itchy skin

When to see a doctor

Some signs and symptoms of pet allergy, such as a runny nose or sneezing, are similar to those of the common cold. Sometimes it's difficult to know whether you have a cold or an allergy. If symptoms persist for more than one week, you might have an allergy.

If your signs and symptoms are severe — such as severe nasal congestion, difficulty sleeping or wheezing — call your doctor. Seek emergency care if wheezing or shortness of breath rapidly worsens or if you are short of breath with minimal activity.

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