Tips for Pet Ownership When You Are Allergic

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Pet allergies are fairly common. Roughly 3 in 10 people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.1

Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. People who are allergic to dogs may be more allergic to some breeds than others, or they may be allergic to all dogs. Although there is much talk about "non-allergic" breeds of cats and dogs, no cat or dog is truly non-allergic.1

Does this mean that if you have pet allergies, you cannot have a dog or cat? The answer is it depends on the person. Whether you are considering getting a pet or if you already have a pet, talk with your allergist. They can suggest things you can do to keep you and your furry companion happy and your allergy symptoms at bay.

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What can I do if I have allergies and a pet?

If you have allergies but have never had allergy testing, you might not be allergic to your pet at all. Pet hair can trap mold, pollen, or dust. When the pet comes into your home or near you carrying these allergens, that may trigger your symptoms.1,2

Consider allergy testing to find out exactly what you are allergic to. For example, if you are allergic to pet dander and pollen, taking steps to reduce your pollen exposure might improve your allergy symptoms.2

Up to 8 out of 10 people with allergies are allergic to more than 1 thing. This means that taking steps to reduce exposure to your other allergens might make you more comfortable around pets.2

How to make yourself more comfortable around cats and dogs

It is possible to keep your dog or cat, even if you have a pet allergy. There are many things you can do to reduce your exposure to pet allergens, including:2-4

  • Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your house
  • Get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting and rugs, if possible
  • Vacuum, mop, and dust often to reduce allergens in the air and on surfaces
  • Bathe your pet each week to reduce dander levels
  • Keep your pet out of your bedroom
  • Try to limit your pet to certain rooms of the house
  • Try not to hug or pet your dog or cat; if you do, wash your hands afterward
  • Have your pet groomed regularly, as this may reduce the amount of accumulated dander
  • Brush your dog or cat outside rather than inside
  • Have someone else bathe and brush your pet, if possible
  • Wash pet bedding each week
  • Minimize cloth window treatments, as these are good spots for allergens to collect

Treating pet allergies

A combination of medicine, reducing exposure, and diligent cleaning of your home is most likely to help you keep a pet, even with an allergy.3

Despite these measures, you may still find yourself dealing with allergy symptoms. Talk with your allergist about what drugs may help you manage your symptoms. Your allergist may recommend a combination of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, or allergy shots (immunotherapy).3