What are pet allergies?

Pet allergies are allergic reactions to certain proteins, called allergens. These allergens are found on animal fur and skin, urine, and in animal saliva. Most animal companions, including cats, dogs, rabbits, rodents and birds produce allergens.

Not everyone experiences pet allergies. Some people are only allergic to certain animals. For those with allergies, their bodies launch an immune system response when they encounter allergens. This allergic reaction occurs because the body mistakes a substance that is harmless to others (the allergen) as a damaging invader.

When your immune system responds to any allergen, it forms specific proteins, called antibodies. Antibodies alert cells to release histamine and other cellular substances, which cause allergy symptoms. People can be allergic to many substances, including pollens and other plant materials, certain foods, dust, mold, insect stings and even medications.

What are the symptoms of pet allergies?

You may have several allergy symptoms while you are around a pet or soon afterward. In most cases, pet allergy symptoms include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy skin
  • Scratchy throat or mouth
  • Coughing
  • Raised, red patches on the skin (hives)
  • Asthma symptoms, including chest tightness, difficulty breathing or wheezing

Pet allergy symptoms mimic those caused by other allergens, like pollen, dust or mold. Many of these symptoms, such as sneezing and runny nose, can also result from illnesses like influenza or the common cold. Your doctor can help you pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

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