I have a special interest in managing pet allergies. I was visiting with our family pet’s veterinarian recently and he mentioned to me that he has pet owners that bring their pet in to be “put to sleep” because of a family member’s reported allergy symptoms. This was shocking to me. I have heard of people giving their pet away, taking them to shelters, or even letting them go on the street to fend for themselves … but death? Really?
I also had a patient recently come see for a presumed pet allergy after receiving a puppy for Christmas. They allowed me to share their experience with you in this post. The family was devastated when their daughter suffered an asthma attack, assuming it was triggered by the dog. She came, got tested, and then we confirmed the skin test with a blood test. Guess what? It was not the dog that triggered the attack!
Approximately 62% of U.S. households have pets. Contrary to popular belief, there are no truly “hypoallergenic breeds” of dogs or cats. It is also a misconception that people with allergies are reacting to the pet’s hair and that a pet that does not shed will not cause a reaction. In truth, it is the major proteins found in a pet’s dander, saliva, and urine that can cause a flare in allergies or aggravate asthma symptoms. The symptoms of allergies and allergic asthma can vary from sniffling, itching, and sneezing to feeling short of breath and even wheezing. Many people who think they have an allergy to their pet may actually be reacting to the pollen on their pet’s fur. Giving up a pet in order to prevent allergy symptoms is not usually necessary. A Board Certified Allergist has specialized training and experience to help you accurately diagnose your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help you or your child manage allergy symptoms and help you to keep your furry family.
The first step is making an appointment for allergy skin testing, such as the family I told you about above did. It is imperative that this is done in an Allergy specialist office where they are board certified to conduct and interpret this test correctly. You will hear me often say that “Seeing A Specialist Matters”. Yes, there may be a slightly higher co-pay to see a specialist, but the old adage is true, “you get what you pay for”. It is important that you avoid antihistamines for a week prior to your visit so that skin testing can be accurately performed on the day of your visit. If it does turn otu that you test positive for cat or dog, then the first step is trying to decrease the amount of exposure to the dander. Your pet should be kept out of the bedroom, try to bathe the pet once a week, remove carpeting and upholstered furniture, place allergy encasings on mattress and pillows, and use a HePA air purifier in your room and living room. In addition to environmental controls, a regular regimen of prescription medicine would be implemented.
If environmental controls and medication do not fully solve the problem or you are looking for a better long-term solution allergy shots have a proven track record as an effective form of long term treatment if done in an Allergist office. A newer alternative to allergy shots are allergy sublingual drops that allow the convenience of being dosed at home. But take note, not all allergy shots or drops dispensed in medical offices are made with the same concentration and must be strong enough to have an effect.
My patient is now enjoying life with her beloved puppy and is both relieved and happy she came to see me for testing. Knowing I was able to confirm the unknown and see the patient through a happy ending is just one example why I do what I do. There is no greater reward than seeing my patients both healthy and happy!