Q: What are my options for handling pet allergies?
First, it’s important to make sure you’re really dealing with a pet allergy and not a different type of allergy. An allergy doctor can review your symptoms and perform a simple skin test to verify that you’re truly allergic and get a sense of how severe the allergy is.
If you are allergic to your pet but choose not to remove it from the home, then you’re not alone. While removing the pet is the most effective treatment for those with pet allergies, many patients can’t fathom not having a furry friend.
There are many ways to manage both asthma and allergies in those who are pet allergic and own a pet, including:
- Practical avoidance: Make your bedroom a pet-free space. Use a HEPA air purifier/filter to trap dander.
- Medications: Many safe, effective medications are available to help control symptoms. Patients frequently choose this option given the ease and convenience of using these highly effective treatments.
- Immunotherapy: Also known as allergy shots, immunotherapy is the process of significantly lessening your allergen sensitivity and improving symptoms through a series of injections.
If you don’t currently own a pet but are concerned about a pet allergy, consider having an allergy test done first to see if you are at risk of developing symptoms.
One myth about pet allergies is that choosing a hypoallergenic pet can alleviate symptoms. While some pets may shed less than others, it’s not animal hair that people are allergic to, but a protein found in pet skin (dander), saliva, and urine. Each animal is different, and patients may do better with one breed than another.
—By Gregory Owens, MD
Dr. Gregory Owens is an allergist and immunologist at Vancouver Clinic. He treats asthma, food allergies, seasonal allergies, and other conditions in adults and children.