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What is an animal allergen?

Allergens are normally harmless substances that can cause some people's immune system to over react. The reaction is called an allergic reaction. Pets with fur often cause allergic reactions. Pet allergens are proteins that come from the animal's skin (dander), saliva, or urine. Pet hair is not an allergen. But it can carry allergens, and so can your clothes. You can breathe in animal allergens when you pet an animal or from dust in the air. When the allergen lands in your nose or lungs, it can cause symptoms. These include sneezing and a runny or itchy nose. The allergen can cause itchy eyes if you touch your eyes after petting an animal. If an animal scratches or licks you and you are allergic, your skin can become red.

Household pets, such as cats and dogs, are the most common sources of animal allergens.


Symptoms of animal allergens include:

  • Sneezing

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Nasal congestion, sometimes causing facial pain

  • Coughing

  • Watery, red, or itchy eyes

  • Asthma symptoms such as wheezing, trouble breathing or shortness of breath. Call 911, unless otherwise advised by your healthcare provider.

Allergy symptoms sometimes look like other conditions or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Management and treatment

Management and treatment include:

  • Avoidance. This means to stay away from the animal you are allergic to. Don't pet, hug, or kiss the animal.

  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy). Talk about this with your allergist or healthcare provider.

  • Medicines. These include antihistamines, bronchodilators, or nasal sprays. Take as directed by your healthcare provider. Always talk with your provider before taking over-the-counter medicines.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.