Insights | October 20, 2023
Pet allergies: understanding symptoms, causes and prevention
Pets are loveable creatures, but you’re unlikely to enjoy being around them as much if you have pet allergies or are allergic to other allergens they bring into your home. So it’s important to understand what pet allergies are and how you can prevent them.
Read what our experts have to say about pet allergy symptoms, causes and prevention, so you and your pets can share a happy life.
What causes pet allergies?
Pet allergy is a reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, saliva or urine which is collectively known as dander. Examples of pet allergies include Can f 2 protein found in dog dander and Fel d 1 protein in cat dander.¹ If you’re allergic, your immune system mistakenly recognises the protein as a harmful substance (allergen). So your body produces antibodies as a defence mechanism.²
How are pet allergens spread?
Pet allergens are sticky and can cling to fabrics, furniture, surfaces, and items carried in and out of the home. They can get into the air when you pet or groom an animal, and once settled, can be stirred in the air again during household activities. When airborne, pet allergen particles can remain in the air for long periods.³
Different types of pet allergy
Contrary to popular belief, if you have a pet allergy, you’re not allergic to your pet’s fur directly. Instead, it’s the proteins in pet dander that are mainly responsible, which can be collected in fur. Cat allergens are found on the skin and fur and dog allergens are found mainly in the hair and dander.⁴
Pet hair itself can also act as a carrier of other allergens, such as pollen, mould, and dust mites, which can cause allergic symptoms in individuals with hay fever, asthma, or eczema.⁴
It’s important to note that animals produce multiple different proteins that have the potential to cause a pet allergy.⁴ This means you could react to dog allergens but not cat allergens, for example. You could even be allergic to different breeds of animal.
Allergens in pet dander
Dander floats through the air, carrying animal proteins. Because it’s airborne, it can enter your airways through your nose or mouth.⁵ To learn more, read our article, Pet dander allergy: symptoms, causes and prevention.
Pet allergy symptoms
There are certain elements of dog grooming, such as brushing and bathing, that are easy enough to do yourself. But other tasks like trimming fur and cutting nails can be deceptively difficult and are best left to professionals. If you trim a dog’s fur too close to their skin, you could cause irritation, especially as their fur acts as a natural Pet-related allergies can manifest in many ways, depending on your specific allergy. Dog dander, for example, may cause one person to sneeze, but may make another’s eyes water. These reactions can fluctuate in intensity depending on your exposure to the allergens.
Pet allergy symptoms can include:
• sneezing and coughing
• runny nose
• itchy, watery or red eyes
• itchy ears or hearing buzzing sounds
• itchy or sore throat.
It’s important to look at your symptoms in context. If you only experience them when outside, they could be a reaction to outdoor pollutants. But if you experience these symptoms exclusively when around animals, it’s likely to be the result of a pet allergy. A doctor will be able to confirm this for you using a pin-prick test.
Once you’ve pinpointed your reaction as a pet allergy, it’s time to act.
Pet allergy prevention
Prevention and allergen avoidance is the best solution when it comes to managing pet allergies. There are a few ways to do this:
Reduce pet contact
The most obvious way to reduce pet allergy symptoms is to reduce your contact with pets. Thankfully, there are other effective pet allergy treatments and prevention methods that can help you to still enjoy being around pets, even with allergies.
Choose short-haired or hairless breeds
A simple way to have a pet and avoid dander allergies is to get an animal that doesn’t shed dander, such as reptiles, amphibians, and fish. There are also certain breeds of cats and dogs that shed less dander than others.⁶ Although there is no such thing as a truly non-allergic pet, choosing a shorter-haired or hairless pet could be preferable if you have allergies.
A powerful vacuum cleaner can help capture pet hair and allergens from your floor, upholstery, surfaces, curtains, and walls. It helps to use specialist tools to clean different floor types, as well as to vacuum into crevices, hard-to-reach areas, mattresses, sofas, and pet beds. Some Dyson tools have been specially engineered for homes with pets, including the Pet grooming tool and the Hair Screw Tool. Some of our machines also come with de-tangling technology as standard, meaning the cleaner head automatically de-tangles long hair and pet hair as it spins.
Use an air purifier
An air purifier can help remove airborne allergens. By drawing in dirty air from the room and capturing it in HEPA-grade filters, purified air can be recirculated, to make the air cleaner. This is an effective way of tackling fine particulate matter such as pet dander and reducing it before it has chance to settle on surfaces in the home.
Groom your pet
Pet grooming is one of the best ways to reduce allergens and carriers at the source before they become an issue. This may sound counterintuitive as grooming usually involves touching your pet and exposing yourself to potential allergens, but if you groom your pet regularly, sensibly and safely you can reduce pet allergens.
By taking these steps to tackle pet allergens and reduce build up in your home, you can enjoy a more comfortable life with your furry friends. Take some time to check out our social media with the hashtag #PetsofDyson.
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1 Chan, S.K. and Leung, D.Y.M. (2018) Dog and cat allergies: Current state of diagnostic approaches and challenges, Allergy, asthma & immunology research. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5809771/ (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
2 MATTSSON, L., LUNDGREN, T., EVERBERG, H., LARSSON, H. & LIDHOLM, J. (2009). Prostatic kallikrein: A new major dog allergen, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 123, 362-368.e3.
3 James, J. (2023) Pet allergy. Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. Available at: https://aafa.org/allergies/types-of-allergies/pet-dog-cat-allergies/ (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
4 Allergy UK (2021). Pet allergy. Available at: https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/pet-allergy-factsheet/ (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
5 Healthline (2018) The difference between ingested, contact, and inhaled allergies. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/ingested-contact-inhaled#inhaled-allergies (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
6 Anaphylaxis UK (2022). Allergy to animals. Available at: https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/fact-sheet/allergy-to-animals/ (Accessed: 01 August 2023).