Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

1. What are the most common symptoms of dog or cat allergy?
Allergic reactions to cats and dogs are caused by proteins found not only in the animal’s dander, but also in their saliva and urine. Pet proteins may cause mild, moderate or severe symptoms of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, rhinitis, sinusitis, hives or itching. Pet allergies can also affect the eyes; symptoms include itching, burning, swelling and tearing.

2. What dog or cat breeds are hypoallergenic or safe for children with asthma?
There are no hypoallergenic (allergen-free) dogs or cats, since all breeds have allergen proteins in their saliva, urine and dander. However, not all people develop symptoms around all dog or cat breeds. If your child has asthma but is not allergic to cats or dogs, wonderful! But…and here’s the clincher…allergies develop over time and exposure, so just be aware that asthma symptoms now or in the future that don’t go away with treatment may just point to Bowser or Kitty.

3. If they are going to happen, how soon should allergy symptoms show up after exposure to a pet?
Reactions to pets can be immediate, happening within minutes, or may be delayed for hours after the exposure. To determine whether allergy symptoms are triggered by contact with a pet, see a board-certified allergist for a diagnosis.

4. I get an itchy rash on my hands whenever my dog licks me. Could I be allergic to the dog’s saliva or could it be something he’s eaten?
Itching, rashes and hives are common allergic reactions that can occur when dogs lavish loving sloppy kisses on their owners, but if you suspect his diet may be the issue, try changing his food (check the labels) for a week and see if the symptoms stop.

5. I am allergic to my cat and was wondering if washing her frequently would reduce the amount of cat allergen I am exposed to?
Study results on this subject have been conflicting, showing either no change or only a short-lived improvement with frequent cat washings. The current opinion is that the benefits of cat washing are so transient that it is unlikely to be worth the effort or trauma to the cat. However, there are plenty of people who swear by it; their cats have been getting bathed since they were kittens.

6. My husband and I are looking to buy a dog. However, my husband has allergies to dogs cats, horses and birds. Is there a dog breed that is well suited for us?
While some breeds of dogs may produce more allergen than others, there is not a breed that is absolutely hypoallergenic or best for people who already have allergies to pets. If you know your husband is allergic to animal dander, shower him with love and affection but please do not get a dog.

7. I recently found out I have cat allergies and have decided to find new homes for my cats. My doctor suggested I have my air ducts cleaned. Is this effective in removing cat allergen?
Some of the many environmental controls that help remove cat allergen once the cat is no longer in your home include cleaning your home’s air ducts and cleaning or replacing furnace filters. In addition, thoroughly washing walls, repeatedly vacuuming upholstery and carpets (reservoirs for cat allergen) with a well-sealed HEPA-equipped (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter) vacuum cleaner, and using HEPA air cleaners throughout your home will help speed the process as well.

Wash all bedding and draperies even if your cats were not in direct contact with them. Cover your bed with new allergen-proof encasements as cat allergen can linger in mattresses for months or years after the cat has been removed. Cat allergen levels in dust decrease slowly, so it may take four to six months to notice a difference. There are products scientifically proven to help get rid of cat allergens, but we’ve never used them.