Your Pets Can Be Allergic to You

Maybe you know a family with a family pet that everybody loves, except for that one person who's allergic. You know how it goes: The unfortunate sneezer agrees that this cat is okay, but that there won't be a next cat. And then the cat proceeds to live for 27 more years. Well, if you're the allergic one, your next cat might be the one that suffers. That's right, our pets can be allergic to us.

Something to Sneeze At

Allergies aren't just a human thing. Actually, pretty much any animal is susceptible to allergies from other animals: cats can be allergic to dogs, dogs can be allergic to birds, and all birds are allergic to not being a jerk 24 hours a day. And yes, humans are animals, and therefore can cause our animal companions to start sneezing and scratching.

It all makes sense if you know how allergies work. The itchy, dry sneeze-fest starts when your overzealous immune system mistakes harmless substances for dangerous invaders. In the case of animal allergies, that substance is something called dander. A potpourri of dead skin and hair cells, dander is produced by every animal with hair, fur, or feathers. Yup, that includes you.

When you inhale that dander, your immune system can get on edge to defend you against it. The next time that your antibodies encounter it, then, they go all out in their assault. In other words, your allergies are a result of your immune system training itself to go on high alert for nothing. And if it can happen to you, it can certainly happen to Fido.

Maybe They Need Some Claw-ritin

So what do you do if your furry friend is allergic to you or to one of your other furry friends? You have plenty of options.

First up, you can give them some medicine. Yeah, as in Benadryl or Claritin. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to go about it (especially to get an idea of the dosage), but we speak from experience when we say that a dissolved quarter-tablet of Claritin can do wonders for a cat with itchy hives and rashes.

There's another, more permanent solution as well. Most animals that are allergic to human dander are allergic to other types of dander as well, and that's a good thing. It means that your vet can start exposing the cat or dog to minuscule amounts of allergens, which can retrain their immune cells to quit overreacting. We wonder if that means we should start exposing our dogs to minuscule amounts of mailman.

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Learn more about your canine friend with the New York Times bestseller "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know" by cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas October 23, 2017

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