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Allergens: Animals

What is an animal allergen?

Allergens found in animals are a common cause of allergic reactions. They are caused by the proteins found in an animal's:

  • Skin (dander)

  • Saliva

  • Urine

Household pets such as cats and dogs are the most common sources of animal allergens. There is no such thing as an allergen-free (hypoallergenic) cat or dog. An animal's hair or fur does not affect the amount of allergen that it makes.

What are symptoms of animal allergens?

Symptoms of animal allergens include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Nasal congestion, sometimes causing face pain
  • Coughing
  • Watery, red, or itchy eyes
  • Shin rash or hives
  • Asthma symptoms such as wheezing, trouble breathing, or shortness of breath. Call 911 if you have any of these, unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.

These symptoms can be caused by other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are animal allergens treated?

Treatment may include:

  • Avoidance. Limit your exposure to or stay away from the animal you are allergic to. Don't pet, hug, or kiss the animal. Don't let the animal lick your skin. Have someone who isn't allergic to the pet brush the pet outdoors. Keep the pet off of furniture and out of your bedroom.
  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy). Allergy shots slowly build up your tolerance to your allergens. Talk about this option with your allergist or healthcare provider.
  • Medicines. These can include antihistamines, bronchodilators (emergency asthma inhalers), or nasal sprays. Take as directed by your provider. Always talk with your provider before taking over-the-counter medicines.