How many people are allergic to pets?
to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
approximately 15% of the population is
allergic to dogs or cats.
An estimated 1/3 of Americans who are
allergic to cats (about 2 million people)
live with at least one cat in their
In a study of 341 adults who were
allergic to cats or dogs and had been
advised by their physicians to give up their
pets, only 1 out of 5 did.
What’s more, 122 of them obtained
another pet after a previous one had died.
dogs and cats can cause allergic reactions
in people who are allergic to animals.
Contrary to popular belief, there are
no “non-allergenic” breeds of dogs or
cats; even hairless breeds may be highly
Furthermore, one dog or cat of a
particular breed may be more irritating to
an individual allergy sufferer than another
animal of that same breed.
allergies to pets can be complicated by
simultaneous allergies to other substances
in a person’s environment.
Therefore, those who are experiencing
allergic reactions need to look at many
potential sources of allergens in their
you know that you have allergies to animals
and want to adopt a pet, you should make
this decision carefully and consider whether
your decision is fair to you and to the
Except in the case of children who
sometimes outgrow allergies, few adult
allergy sufferers become accustomed to pets
to whom they are allergic.
Many pet owners end upon giving up
their pets after deciding that they cannot
live with the allergic symptoms.
Such a decision is both difficult for
the pet owner and can mean the end of the
pet’s life if the pet is given up to a
Pets Can Prevent the Development of Allergies
suggests that the presence of potential
allergens in the environment may prevent the
development of allergies in children.
A recent (September, 2002) article in
England Journal of Medicine studied
children ages 6 – 13 in rural areas of
Germany, Austria and Switzerland and found
that the greater the amount of endotoxins in
the children’s mattresses the lower the
occurrence of hay fever, asthma and
Endotoxins are organic compounds
found in the walls of bacteria.
They are found, for instance, in the
dust, dirt and environments where farm
animals reside and are thought to stimulate
the immune system thus allowing the children
to protect themselves from the development
an editorial accompanying that article,
Scott Weiss, MD writes that “a number of
environmental factors are known to be
associated with a lower incidence of
allergic disease in early life. …[T]he
presence, from before birth onward, of a dog
or other pet in the home and attendance at
day care during the first year of life are
… environmental factors that protect
against the development of allergies and
allergic asthma in childhood.”
an article in the Journal
of the American Medical Association
(August 28, 2002) concluded that children
exposed to 2 or more indoor pets in their
first year of life were half as likely to
develop allergies to cats, dogs and common
irritants such as dust mites and pollen than
those who were not exposed to pets in their
first year of life.
Thomas Platts-Mills of the allergy division
of the University of Virginia has said that
studies have suggested that removing a cat
from a home can actually cause a previously
non-feline allergic child to become allergic
According to Dr. Thomas-Plat, if the
parents of a child allergic to dust mites
and pollen – but not to cat dander –
give up their cat, either because they
don’t know the child’s specific
allergies or because they want to remove any
possible sources of allergen, that child may
then go on to develop cat allergies.
medical journal The
Lancet (September, 2002) studied
children of asthmatic and nonasthmatic
mothers. Among the children of nonasthmatic mothers, those who had
been around cats were 40 percent less likely
to experience persistent wheezing than those
who had not been exposed to cats.
However, among the children of
asthmatic mothers, those children exposed to
cats where actually 3 times as likely to
develop persistent wheezing by age five.
Ways to Prevent or Decrease Allergic Reactions to Pets
allergic reactions are making someone in
your home miserable, but the allergic
reactions are not life-threatening, there
are several steps that you can take to
eliminate or at least lessen those allergic
Much of the following is taken from
the HSUS website (http://www.hsus.org/ace/11778).
Don’t be quick to blame the family
pet for allergies.
Ask your allergist to specifically
test for allergies to pet dander, rather
than making an assumption.
And understand that allergies are
Many allergy sufferers are sensitive
to more than one allergen.
So, if you are allergic to dust,
pollen, cigarette smoke and cat dander, you
will need to reduce all of these potential
Reducing many of them at once may
greatly reduce allergic reactions without
having to find a new home for the pet in the
Create an “allergy-free” zone in
the home – preferably the bedroom – and
strictly prohibit the pet’s access to it.
Use a high-efficiency HEPA air
cleaner (available at almost any home and
garden store or discount department store)
in the bedroom.
Consider impermeable covers (such as
zippered, plastic casings) for the mattress
and pillows because allergen particles
brought into the room on clothes and other
objects can accumulate in mattresses and
Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the
rest of the home.
(As noted above, HEPA air cleaners
are available at many home and garden shops
and discount department stores.)
furnishing such a cloth curtains and blinds
and carpeted floors.
Replace cloth upholstery with
alternative non-leather coverings.
Clean frequently and thoroughly to
remove dust and dander.
Wash articles such a couch covers,
bedding, pillows, curtains and pet beds
Use a vacuum with a filter designed
specifically to trap allergens.
Bathe your pet once or twice weekly.
This can reduce the level of
allergens on fur by as much as 84%.
Even cats can become accustomed to
Use whatever shampoo your
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) can
They work by gradually desensitizing
a person’s immune system to the pet
See an allergist for his/her
recommendations regarding these shots.
Medical therapies to lessen the
symptoms of allergic reactions can also be
These include antihistamines,
steroids, and asthma medications in pill and
Almost every year brings new, more
effective and safer medications for
You should follow the advise and
recommendations of a general medical
physician or an allergy specialist who
understands your commitment to living with