The United States is going to the dogs. Cats too. According to the American Pet Products Association, there are about 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats living in homes in the US. That means almost 44% of all households have a dog and 26% have a cat. In case you didn’t notice, there are more cats per household than dogs.
That’s an incredible amount of shed fur, skin and pet dander in our homes. That’s a problem for people with cat or dog allergies. But can you be allergic to one and not the other? Is it possible to be allergic to dogs and live in a house filled with cats?
What Causes Allergies?
Pet allergy, like all allergy, is caused by a confused immune system. It’s a terrible case of mistaken identity. The body is exposed to harmless bits of proteins from the environment. Instead of recognizing these proteins as innocent, the immune system mistakenly identifies them as germs and creates antibodies to attack them.
Much in the way the body creates antibodies as a result of exposure to disease (such as measles), it creates antibodies in response to this protein. These are called human immunoglobulin E or IgE for short. With germs, it means the body is ready for war with the next exposure. Unfortunately for the allergic person, the body goes to war with every exposure to harmless proteins.
In other words, every time you are exposed to the protein, the body thinks it needs to fight a germ. That’s why allergies can give you the same sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and itchy or watery eyes that go along with a cold. Allergies also cause inflammation. That inflammation can also lead to eczema, fluid in the inner ear, or even asthma.
What Causes Pet Allergy
Pet allergy is caused by proteins produced by furred animals. In cats, the primary cat allergen protein is Fel d 1. Cats produce this protein in their saliva and their sebaceous glands. The glands coat their skin with this protein. The protein from the skin gets spread to their fur. The protein is also found in the urine. Cats also produce albumin, a common protein found in eggs and blood. Allergy to this protein is not as common.
Dogs produce Can f 1 in their saliva. This is the protein that causes allergic reactions in people. Unlike cats, dogs don’t produce the problem protein in their skin. However, when the dog licks its skin or fur, it spreads the protein from the saliva to the fur. So, the skin and fur end up coated in the protein.
Now, as you can see the proteins are totally different but the problem is the same.
Can You Be Allergic to Cats and Not Dogs?
Yes, it is possible to be allergic to cats and not dogs. You can be allergic to dogs and not cats. However, the proteins are similar. If you are allergic to one furred mammal, you are likely allergic to most of the others.
People that are allergic to cats and dogs don’t realize that they are likely allergic to horses, goats, and rabbits as well. Most Americans aren’t exposed to these animals on a regular basis, so they haven’t had a chance to create the antibody.
Because each animal produces different amounts of this protein, you can have a terrible allergic reaction to one cat but not another. In another situation, you can be only mildly allergic to a dog that creates a small amount of protein but react strongly to a cat that produces more protein.
Remember, cats have the protein in their saliva and on their skin. Because cats spend close to 30% of their time grooming, they are dedicated to spreading the protein from their saliva over as much of their body as possible. That’s why cats appear to be more allergy-causing than dogs. They just produce more of the problem protein and they spend lots of time spreading it.
Don’t ever fall for the claim that a cat or dog is hypoallergenic. If the animal is alive, it is producing the allergy-causing protein in its saliva. In the cats of cats, its glands are at work pumping it out as well.
How do Pet Allergens Spread
Whether it’s cat allergen or dog allergen, it leaves the animal and gets in the air. Once it is airborne it is either inhaled or sticks to the first surface it touches. That can be a wall, a chair, a lamp, or even a shirt or the skin of its owner. No matter what it touches, as soon as it is disturbed it is in the air again.
As long as the protein is in the air, there is a chance you will inhale it. Inhaling the allergen starts the allergic reaction.
If a dog licks you, you are getting a direct dose of the allergen. Also, dried saliva can flake off toys and pet beds and become airborne. The airborne allergen can stick to anything.
Cat allergen is found in hospitals, airplanes and other places you wouldn’t expect to find it. That’s because cat owners carry a coating of the allergen on their clothes, their skin and their hair. Cat owners drop this allergen everywhere they go.
Dog owners do the same thing, but because dogs don’t produce the same quantity of allergen, dog owners don’t spread as much.
Can You Live with Pets and a Pet Allergy?
Depending on your level of sensitivity and the amount of allergen your pet produces, it may be possible to live with pets and pet allergies. Studies have shown infants exposed to animals have stronger immune systems.
Living with pets and pet allergies means staying on top of the allergen.
Vacuum and dust frequently while wearing a mask. Keep pets out of the bedroom. Run a HEPA filtered air cleaner that is the right size for the room. Groom pets with Allerpet Solution for either cats or dogs. If you have carpets, spray them regularly with a solution that will neutralize the protein. Allersearch ADMS and Ecology Works Antiallergen Solution are both easy to use.
It is possible to live with dogs and be allergic to cats and vice versa. Our daughter is allergic to cats and has had them all her life. Either way, if you have pets and you have allergies you need to learn to keep the allergen levels down.
Wishing you the best of health
The Allergy Store