Thursday, January 30, 2014

3 Common Pet Allergy Myths - Debunked

Allergies don’t just come in the form of pollen, grass, dust or food. Some of our favorite four-legged friends can also cause us to sneeze, wheeze, itch and cough! But, the reasons behind pet allergies are commonly mistaken. Today we want to talk about three pet allergy myths and get to the bottom of what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to being allergic to your furry friend.

Kali the Dachshund

People are allergic to pet’s fur, not hair

We’ve all heard the phrase, “A dog is a man’s best friend,” but what if the man suffers from pet allergies? Many people blame pet hair, assuming it’s the cause of their allergic reaction, but that is false. What causes someone to have an allergic reaction to a pet, isn't the hair or fur, but the pet’s dander.

Dander is the protein secreted in the pet’s saliva and oil glands that it sheds as dead skin cells. These same proteins can also be found in the animal’s urine and feces. Because dander is so small, it can become airborne as your four-legged friend runs throughout the house, finding its way onto furniture, pillows, rugs, and people.

Another myth is that pets with hair, as opposed to fur, are hypoallergenic. False! This belief is in fact wrong, as hair and fur differ only in texture and length. Pet allergies have to do with a pet’s diet (as it relates to the influx in a pet’s saliva and oil glands) and how they are groomed (longhaired vs. shorthaired).

One solution for pet lovers is to choose a shorthaired pet over a longhaired one. Shorthaired pets are less likely than longhaired pets to cause sniffing or sneezing. This is because longhaired pets tend to collect more dander and other airborne allergens like pollen, dust and mold spores as they run wild.

Some breeds of animals are “hypoallergenic”

Because dander sheds as dead skin cells and all dogs and cats have skin, contrary to belief, there are no non-allergenic breeds of animals. Yes, shorthaired pets have less hair to shed, so they tend to produce less dander, but the idea that there are breeds of non-allergenic dogs or cats is completely false. The only pets proven to be hypoallergenic have scaly skin—like snakes and iguanas.

Regardless of fur or hair, there is no such thing as non-allergic dogs. If you are allergic to one dog, all dogs can cause a reaction, no matter if they have hair or fur. However, there are breeds that shed less than others, which are considered hypoallergenic, for example Poodles or Yorkies.

Many people opt for a hairless cat or dog believing it’s allergy-free, but this is also false. Remember, the allergens that pets produce are related to their skin and saliva, so the pet’s hair isn't a major factor in the allergy equation.

Pets Don’t Have Allergies

Believe it or not, this is false. Humans aren't the only ones who suffer from allergies. Pets have them too! Dogs can be allergic to their environment or have food allergies, but instead of sniffing and sneezing like humans, they itch a lot. Here are some signs a dog may have allergies:
  • Frequently scratching (and doesn't have fleas)
  •  Licking its paws
  • Red, irritated skin 

If you ever notice any of these symptoms, then there is a good chance your pet may have allergies. It can be difficult to determine whether a dog has food or environmental allergies so pay attention to when the symptoms occur. If the symptoms only occur in a specific season, it could be environmental. If the symptoms usually occur after the dog eats then it could be food allergies. The next step would be to visit a veterinarian to learn the different ways to treat the allergies. This could include allergy shots, changing the dogs diet or giving the dog antihistamines.

Dogs aren't alone. Cats also have food and environmental allergies too. Just like dogs, cats itch a lot, especially around the face. It’s important to pay attention to this because cats can become so itchy, they can hurt themselves from excessive scratching. Cats can also have asthma-like conditions that can be life threatening.

Now that we’ve debunked some of the popular myths about pet allergies, hopefully you can breathe a little easier (literally?). The most effective way to avoid pet allergies is to avoid pets altogether. But the good news is that there are other alternatives if you want to keep your pet. Talk to your allergist about potential allergy shots or other ways to minimize pet allergy symptoms.

You don’t have to get rid of Garfield or Snoopy if you have allergies! If you live in the New York City area and would like to speak with a doctor about your pet allergies, please contact Hudson Allergy at (212) 729.1283 or email us at