Cats and dogs are the most common pets. However, sometimes they may cause allergies, due to allergens produced in their salivary and sebaceous glands. They are found in their saliva, hair, urine and dead skin.

As Professor Giorgio Walter Canonica, Supervisor of the Personalized Medicine Center: Asthma and Allergology at Humanitas, explained in an interview, this allergy’s symptoms are mainly respiratory ones. They happen right after the inhalation of the allergens that scatter in the pet owner’s home. Patients may suffer from allergic rhinitis with a running nose, sneezes, itching nose and eyes, lacrimation. In the most severe cases, asthma attacks with breathing difficulties may happen too”.

What should one do when symptoms first appear?

“The main tests to ascertain a potential allergy to animals, are skin prick tests and the research for specific IgE in serum”, the professor pointed out.

In case of allergy, the better choice is indeed removing the pet to reduce the exposure to allergens, even though sometimes this is not possible or feasible. Moreover, pushing away a pet does not immediately solve the symptoms, because the allergens remain in the environment for many years after pets (especially cats) have gone.

“We suggest to avoid contacts with animals as much as possible, and then to start a dedicated treatment”, Prof. Canonica recommends.

The cure for allergies

“You may take antihistamines or a nasal spray with cortisone (or with both cortisone and antihistamines) to alleviate the symptoms. Antihistamine-based eye drops will help your eyes itch less.

In case of asthma, a dedicated therapy is needed. Immunotherapy is possible, as with other respiratory allergies, but evidence of efficacy against pet allergies is still limited. This treatment has to be done for some years, and it aims to train the immune system to tolerate the substance that induces the allergy in order to significantly reduce it or utterly remove it”, Prof. Canonica points out.