child with allergies blowing nose into a tissue

Cat and Dog Allergies: Why It Happens and How to Deal!


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It’s the ultimate catch 22: all you want is cuddles with your cat or dog, but your nose and eyes say no. If you suffer from cat allergies or dog allergies, you might even have had to forego getting a pet for the time being. But for your sake (ok, and the sake of all the pets missing out on your unrestricted love) here’s advice on how to cope if you’re allergic to cats or dogs.

What makes someone allergic to cats and dogs?

Dog and cat allergies are quite common. You probably know someone who has dog or cat allergies, if you don’t have them yourself. About a fifth of the world’s population may suffer from pet allergies at some point.

The good news? Allergies can change, and people often grow out of them. But that might not be much consolation to you now. While the allergy is in full swing, it can be pretty stressful for both you and your pet. After all, holding back from a friendship is hard on everyone involved.

Interestingly, allergies are caused by a hyper-sensitive immune system. While this might have been useful for survival centuries ago, they’re mostly just annoyances in the modern era.

Cat allergies

Most people assume they’re allergic to a cat’s fur. But when it comes to cat allergies, the culprit is likely the cat’s saliva. That’s why even hairless breeds like the Sphynx aren’t actually hypoallergenic cats.

Most cats are pretty obsessive about their cleanliness. They’ll groom themselves for hours. Unfortunately, this also means their fur usually has plenty of that allergy-causing saliva on it, which can cause sneezing, red eyes, and rashes.

Dog allergies

Unlike cats, dog allergies are primarily caused by dander (although this can sometimes be the case with cats too). So if you’re allergic to dogs, you’re probably struggling with the proteins in the dander of their fur. They secrete this protein through their skin, and it then comes off as dander.

There is some good news though. Depending on what coat type your dog has, they may shed less or more fur and dander. That’s why allergy sufferers tend to do better with some types of dogs than others.

The Scottish Terrier and Spoodle are both low-shedding dogs that are considered to be hypoallergenic.

young woman has allergies to her pug dog and is blowing nose while he sits on the couch

Can dogs be allergic to cats?

You might have wondered whether dogs and cats can be allergic to other dogs and cats. Or if cross-species allergies exist. That is, whether your cat is sneezing because she’s allergic to your dog.

Maybe you’ve even wondered if they could ever be allergic to humans.

The answer is…yes. It’s possible for dogs to be allergic to cats, and vice versa. It’s also possible for a cat to be allergic to other cats. The same goes for dogs.

Read about PD pup, Rebel the Kiwi Staffordshire Bull Terrier who has been fending off allergies.

What to do about cat and dog allergies

Have a cat allergy or dog allergy and need to work around it? Some people suggest allergy-sufferers simply don’t have pets. But we all know that’s easier said than done. Aside from the obvious ‘I NEED a pet right now’ feeling so many of us have, there are also other scenarios to consider.

What if you’ve had your dog or cat for years and develop an allergy? Or if your new baby is allergic to cats? The pet you’re allergic to could even be an assistance dog or therapy animal. And that doesn’t even touch on partners or family members with pets you have to interact with.

Here are some possible ways to minimise the effects of dog and cat allergy symptoms.

1. Medical treatment

There’s a large range of allergy treatments available. They vary from medication like anti-histamines and immunotherapy through to natural and homeopathic treatments. You probably have a preferred way of treating your dog allergy or cat allergy, but research the various treatments available – perhaps one will work really well for you!

There’s even a vaccine for those allergic to cats. Cool, right?

2. Balancing exposure and symptoms

When it comes to dog or cat allergies, you’ve probably heard people saying you’ll ‘get used to’ your own pets. They’re not wrong! But it isn’t as simple as just going and rubbing your dog or cat with your eyes until you’re cured.

The reduction of allergy symptoms often relies on finding the right balance of exposure and symptom management. So for instance, don’t rub your face all over your pet’s fur, but sit nearby and stroke them for a bit before washing your hands if you want to touch your eyes.

Controlling allergies through limiting exposure and gradually adapting can help some people. And who knows; as you get used to them, maybe the occasional face rub will be allowed one day. Followed by a face wash, of course.

That’s also why some people seem to be allergic to some cats but not others. Often, they’ll cope ok with their cats or dogs but not new ones who they haven’t been exposed to yet.

ginger cat sneezes

3. Designated pet areas

Sometimes, it’s easier to have designated areas where you’ll be exposed to the allergens. This way, you can control exposure levels and also have areas that remain safe zones for the allergy suffers. Or that’s the theory anyway!

To get this right, try designating an area of your home as the ‘pet zone’. The idea is you can spend more or less time in that area depending on how bad your allergies are on a given day, whether you’re in good health otherwise or not, and so on.

Just remember, it has to be a place where your dog or cat enjoys going, and where they’ll still feel part of the family. So shutting them away in a bathroom won’t work! Make it an inviting area with plenty of toys, a comfy spot to curl up, access to water, and a comfortable temperature.

Putting one of your old t-shirts or socks in there when you’re not around can also help lessen separation anxiety in pets. They can smell your scent and feel comforted.

4. Baths and showers

If you’re allergic to your cat or dog, you might be able to control allergies somewhat by keeping everything super clean. Just like the cats and their obsessive grooming! But when it comes to the pets, know that you shouldn’t bath a cat if you can help it. Dogs, on the other hand? Absolutely.

Besides washing your hands often (and especially before touching your face), also wash your hair often. This helps to keep dander and even saliva at a minimum. On top of that, you should be sure that your home is clean. Regularly vacuuming carpets and curtains, mopping or sweeping tiles, washing bed linen, and wiping down surfaces can all help to keep allergens at bay.

And open a window, even in winter! Although you don’t want everyone to freeze, making sure the living spaces are well ventilated could make a major difference. This because the flow of fresh air can reduce the build-up of allergens.

This swimming Lab's dog breed health problems include dog allergies

5. A healthy diet

Your allergies feel worse when you’re sick, tired, or worn down. And other allergies can also make your existing ones worse. So you’re likely to be sneezing a lot more around your cat when you’ve also got hay fever, for instance.

Of course, food allergies are also quite common. And limiting your exposure to them – or removing them entirely – can sometimes improve your cat allergy or dog allergy. Plus, allergies often don’t occur in isolation and somebody who suffers from being allergic to dogs or cats may also suffer other allergies.

Diet is a good place to start. For both you and your pet. Keeping a food diary and avoiding foods for a week or two at a time can help you identify potential allergens. Of course, you can also go for allergy testing from a doctor.  

In addition to your diet, you may also try changing your pet’s food. Different foods will change the balance of proteins in your pet’s skin and saliva. And a diet which results in healthy, shiny fur could mean less shedding and scratching… and less allergens for you to cope with.

Read more about dog skin conditions, which are often caused by allergies and are one of the most frequent claims we see here at PD Insurance. Here’s what to do if it’s not you but your dog who’s getting allergies:

Dog insurance and cat insurance to protect your pets

Did you know you get one or more months of free pet insurance when you sign up online with PD Insurance? Taking out a dog insurance or cat insurance policy means your pet can visit the vet in times of accident or emergency.

Plus, depending on the plan you choose, you could even get their allergies checked out and treated – even if the vet can’t help you with your sneezing!

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