What causes pet allergies


Did I just hear- the treat jar- rattle?
Purred: Tue Aug 21, '07 9:22am PST 
What are the most common causes for pet allergies?

Cat and dog dander, or skin flakes, as well as their saliva and urine, can cause an allergic reaction – sneezing, wheezing, and running eyes and nose. Both feathers and the droppings from birds, another common kind of pets, can increase the allergen exposure. Bird droppings can also be a source of bacteria, dust, fungi and mold. This also applies to the droppings of other caged pets, such as gerbils, hamsters and mice.

The animal hair is not considered to be a very significant allergen, however, the hair or fur can collect pollen, dust, mold, and other allergens. Although individual pets may produce more or less allergen, there is no relationship between the pet's hair length and allergen production. There is also no such thing as a non-allergenic breed.

Animal allergens are found mostly in homes where pets are present. What is surprising, however, is that these allergens are also found (in lesser amounts) in places where pets have never been present, such as schools, workplaces, and other public spaces. Since dander allergens are sticky, they can be brought to these places on the clothing of pet owners. Also, while dander on a smooth surface (such as a wall) can be easily wiped off, in soft materials, such as carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and clothing, it can persist for long periods of time. That is why, unless special steps are taken, pet dander can remain in a home for up to six months after the pet has been removed.

Cat allergy

An estimated 6 million Americans are allergic to cats and approximately one third of them have cats in their homes. Allergic reactions to cats can range from inflammation of the nose and eyes to asthma attacks. Although the most effective treatment is removal of the pet, recent scientific studies have shown that steps can be taken in homes with cats to significantly decrease one's exposure to cat allergen.

Cat allergen is not actually cat hair, but a protein present in the dander and saliva of cats. The allergens become airborne as microscopic particles which, when inhaled into the nose or lungs, can produce allergic symptoms. Cat allergen is particularly sticky and is carried on clothing.

In a household with a cat, it is almost impossible not to be exposed to some level of cat allergen, which may or may not be enough to trigger allergy symptoms. Of course, the levels of exposure will be much higher where cats are present, and these levels are more likely to cause an allergy attack.

Dog allergy

Dog allergy is less common than cat allergy. And, contrary to popular belief, dog hair is not what makes you feel miserable - just like with cats, it is their dander that gets to you. For some allergy sufferers, a dog's lick may also set off an allergic response.

Because dogs tend to scratch themselves more than cats, dog allergen can be more easily introduced into the air. The reason for excessive scratching may be that the dog itself is allergic to something in your home. There are hundreds of possible causes of this, the most common is mold. It is worth mentioning that the same source may be worsening your own allergy symptoms, so taking care of it would make life easier for both you and your pet.

Other pets

With rabbits, rats, mice, hamsters and guinea pigs the most important sources of allergens are the saliva and urine. Once dry, these secretions become airborne and can be a source of allergic reactions for children and laboratory animal workers. Horse and cow skin scales can be allergenic to those exposed to them. Birds carry allergy-provoking mites, molds and pollen on their feathers. Budgie droppings can release proteins into the air which induce insidious lung problems and asthma.

Tropical fish may be problematic, in that individuals can develop allergies to the ant's eggs upon with the fish feed, and mold that may grow in the fish tank. Even cockroaches, although not considered pets, are also a source of domestic allergens.

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