Are you allergic to dogs or cats?

allergic to dogs and cats

Signs that you might be allergic to your pet, and how to naturally prevent and treat the allergy 

Dogs and cats are commonly known as 'man's best friend' - that is unless the person is allergic to them! If you suffer from a pet allergy, simply spending 5 minutes around a certain animal can result in itchy and swollen eyes, a wheezy chest, a runny nose and sneezing. This is enough to make some people never want to see another animal in their life! In certain cases, people have given their animals away.

Before you lose hope of ever overcoming your pet allergy, we're here to let you in on some tips and tricks of naturally managing allergic reactions. Find out how to determine whether you do in fact have a pet allergy, what exactly causes it, and how to prevent and treat your allergies - naturally! 

Signs that you might be allergic to your dog or cat

Signs of a pet allergy are very similar to hay fever (allergic rhinitis), such as sneezing and runny nose. People who suffer from asthma are likely to have an even more amplified response, which may result in a severe asthma attack. If you display any of the symptoms described below (usually within 15 - 20 minutes of being exposed to a dog or cat), you are likely allergic to them!

  • Itchy, watery, red or swollen eyes
  • Swelling and itching of the nose and palate
  • Coughing, shortness of breath and mucous build-up in your respiratory tract
  • Redness and irritation of the skin after being licked by a dog or cat
  • Rash on various parts of the body (usually upper body)
  • Asthma attack (in someone with asthma)
  • Children with dog allergies will often develop eczema

If you're unsure of whether you are in fact allergic to dogs or cats, an allergist can perform tests and tell you exactly what you're allergic to and how severe your allergy is.

The science behind allergies

An allergy is defined as a hypersensitive (or inappropriate) response from the immune system to foreign substances that enter or come into contact with the body. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen - anything can be an allergen if the immune system has an adverse reaction to it. There are various types of common allergens such as nuts, bee venom, pollen, seafood, latex and dust, just to name a few! Some people never experience allergic reactions to any of these allergens while others experience allergic reactions to specific ones!

If someone is allergic to a substance (an allergen), their immune system responds to the substance as if it was harmful to immune system, and therefore tries to destroy the allergen. This triggers a release of a substance called histamine, as well as other inflammatory compounds in the body, which cause the allergic response. Cue the sneezing, itchy eyes, sinusitis, snotty noses, phlegm-filled chests and itchy skin! Most allergens actually pose no threat to the body, which is why allergies are classified as 'inappropriate immune responses'. When a harmless substance such as dust or pollen is encountered by a person who is allergic to that substance, the immune system may overreact by producing antibodies (histamines) that attack the allergen.

Pet (animal) allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal's skin cells, saliva, urine or faeces. The allergen finds its way from the skin into the animal’s fur, thereafter collecting in carpets, bedding, on clothing and between couch cushions. These allergens can stay in the household for months! The pet hair itself is not an allergen, but the hair holds dust, dander (dead skin cells) and other allergens. Pet dander can remain airborne for long periods of time as well and can eventually find its way into your eyes or lungs.

While it was previously believed that certain breeds of dogs and cats were more likely to cause pet allergy, there's no such thing as an allergen-free or hypoallergenic animal. People often think that short-haired animals who are low-shedding are less likely to give you allergies, but this has been proven otherwise. Dogs and cats who are short-haired still shed their fur and release dander into the environment, with the same allergies. Even hairless breeds produce allergies!

Why more people are avoiding OTC/prescription antihistamines

When a person's body is triggered by an allergen, the immune system produces histamine. Histamine is a protein that triggers allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat. It therefore makes sense that people who are suffering from allergies would take an antihistamine, right? While antihistamines sourced from pharmacies or doctors work well to block the allergy triggers, they can cause side effects which can be detrimental to your health! OTC (over the counter) and prescription antihistamine medications have been reported to cause side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, dry nose or mouth, increased appetite and anxiety. As a result, an increasing number of people are turning to natural alternatives to help manage their pet allergy.

Natural ways to prevent pet allergy

People who suffer from allergies to cats and dogs may be advised by some doctors to find new homes for their pets. However, doctors are increasingly recognising the value of the human-animal bond and finding solutions. In fact, there are many ways to prevent and treat a pet allergy, without having to use OTC/prescription antihistamines or get rid of your pet.

Spend time with the prospective animal first

If you're considering adopting a dog or cat (or even rabbit, mouse, horse or rat), spend time with the animal individually to see if a reaction develops. If you don't experience any allergy symptoms to the animal, you're good to go!

Early exposure

Previously, people believed that exposing a baby to animals increases their chances of developing allergies or asthma. Research shows that early exposure to animals actually lowers the chances of the baby or child from developing a pet allergy later in life! Studies were performed on children to determine whether or not early exposure to animals increased their risk of developing pet allergies, but the results actually showed that those who had been continuously exposed to cats or dogs from 1 year of age were 67% less likely than other children to develop a pet allergy!

Make changes to your home

If you or anybody in your family is allergic to the fur babies, it may help to replace any carpets with tiles or hardwood flooring. If you have any rugs in your home, wash them as often as possible to prevent a buildup of allergens! You may also want to consider banning your dog or cat from sleeping on the bed or couches. Instead, provide your dog or cat with their own comfortable bed and their own linen, which you should also wash regularly.

Ensure your house is always well-ventilated. Allow sufficient circulation of air in the home by opening windows every day. Be thorough in your cleaning efforts to get rid of dust, animal fur, mould or any other type of allergen! The vacuum cleaner is your new best friend!

Change your clothes regularly

Allergens such as dander have a tendency to attach on to clothing, shoes and your hair. It's advisable to wash your hands, change your clothes regularly and even have a shower after interacting with your pets (or other peoples' pets). Failure to wash your clothing and your body regularly can lead to an accumulation of allergens in your house and car, making it that much more difficult to avoid exposure to allergens!

Groom your pet regularly

Not only do you need to wash your hands and take regular showers, but the main culprit (your fur baby) also needs to do the same! Brush your dog or cat (outside) regularly to get rid of any built-up of dander. Bathe your pet on a regular basis to reduce the level of allergy-causing dander (shed old skin cells). If possible, have others who are not allergic to the animal groom and bathe them. 

Browse our collection of natural and organic pet bath and grooming products >>

Boost your immune system

Allergic reactions begin in your immune system. The purpose of the immune system is to defend itself and keep microorganisms and foreign substances out of the body. If the immune system is strong and healthy, it can ward off infection against pollutants, viruses and other harmful airborne substances that may enter the body. Because allergies involve both local reactions (release of histamine and inflammatory compounds) AND immune functioning, treatment should be holistic and aimed at treating the whole person, rather than simply suppressing symptoms.

Boost your child's immune system: Help your little one's immune system cope with their immune response to allergens with Kangavites, a wide-spectrum daily multivitamin and multi-mineral. They come in chewable tablets with a yummy flavour. Parents love Kangavites because they're dairy-free, gluten-free, wheat-free and preservative-free - with no artificial ingredients! KiddieBoost is a herbal formula which helps to support immune system health in children.

Boost your immune system: If you're only going to take one daily nutritional supplement to boost your immune system, choose Solgar's Formula VM-2000, a wide spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement that you can take daily to ensure that you are receiving all the nutrients you need to lead a healthy life. We especially love Formula VM-2000 because it's dairy-free, wheat-free, preservative-free and vegan friendly! Along with your daily Solgar multivitamin, use tissue salts like AllisOne Immuno Synergy, which can be used by adults and
children. They strengthen the immune system, while reducing the likelihood and
severity of allergic episodes!

Incorporate fruit and vegetables into your diet

Regularly consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those containing Vitamin C, will help reduce your histamine levels, as Vitamin C is a well-known immune-booster and antihistamine! Studies done on children who ate lots of fresh vegetables and fruits (particularly grapes, apples, oranges, lemons, grapefruit and tomatoes) displayed fewer allergy symptoms than children who did not.

Use a nasal spray

Clear up allergies and stuffy noses with an all-natural nasal spray, free of chemicals and cortisone! Using an antimicrobial nasal spray in times of allergic reaction helps to alleviate nasal congestion and itching caused by allergies and other factors.

We love Silverlab's Ionised Colloidal Silver Nasal Spray, with antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and antibiotic properties! Simply spray into the nostrils for congestion, hay fever and allergic rhinitis!

Steam inhalation

Though a temporary fix, inhaling essential oils diluted in hot steam can provide an immediate relief to your pet allergy symptoms such as congestion and mucous build-up. Eucalyptus Essential Oil is a refreshing and uplifting oil, traditionally used for respiratory relief! When inhaled through steam, Eucalyptus Essential Oil helps open the nasal passages and bronchial tubes. 

Fill a bowl with hot, steaming water. Add a few drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil. Drape a towel over your head and lean over so that your face is near enough to the bowl in order to inhale the steam. Make sure to completely cover your head and the sides of the bowl to receive full effects of steam inhalation. Inhale for a few minutes and you should feel relief! You can also use Eucalyptus Essential Oil in a Cold Mist Diffuser, especially at night, when many people with allergies find it difficult to sleep due to sneezing and congestion.

Natural antihistamine

Many people who suffer from a pet allergy are looking towards natural treatment for their allergies. As mentioned above, OTC or prescription antihistamines are losing their favourability due to negative side effects previously discussed. More and more people are now realising that there are natural antihistamines and natural alternatives that are available to them!

AllergiClear is a compound remedy containing herbal, homeopathic, tissue salt and nutritional ingredients known for their positive effect on preventing the allergic reactions to various allergens and improving respiratory and immune system health. Taken regularly, or when exposed to known allergens, AllergiClear can help you to become allergy-free and reduce or even eliminate your dependence on synthetic antihistamines with their troublesome side effects.

While AllergiClear acts as a preventative and reduces the allergic response, SOS-HistaDrops is a herbal and homeopathic formulation which helps to treat acute allergy symptoms like watering, itchy eyes and noses, congestion and sneezing. Like all of our products, AllergiClear and SOS-HistaDrops contain no animal products, gluten, artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and are not tested on animals!

Put your pet on a supplement

Healthy animals produce less dander - fact! There are various supplements you can give your pet to improve the condition of their skin, reduce the amount of dander they produce, and also reduce fur-loss! Supplements containing ingredients such as omega 3 

Omega Fish Oil is a fantastic product to improve the integrity of your pet's skin, nails and fur! Not only is it great for that, Omega Fish Oil also improves the condition of their joints. Another recommendation is Skin & Coat Tonic, an all-natural, herbal tonic to strengthen your pet's skin, relieve any itching and prevent hair-loss or bald patches.

If you have any questions related to your pet, contact our team or leave a comment below for free health advice. We always love hearing from you!

Saskia Michele natural holistic pet health blog

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