I Can't Hug My Pet! Am I Allergic?

You’ve brought your cute new puppy home and you can’t stop cuddling him. But soon you start sneezing and your nose starts to drip. You have the typical symptoms of a pet allergy .

Pet allergies are common, with allergies to dogs and cats affecting 10% to 20% of the global population.1 But how do you know if you actually have a pet allergy, and what can you do about it if you are allergic to your pet?

Do You Have a Pet Allergy?

A pet allergy is caused by your immune system overreacting to allergens shed by your pet. These allergens include pet dander (dead flakes of skin), or the proteins found in your pet’s saliva or urine. Because pet dander is so small, it can remain in the air for a long time. They may also gather on surfaces like bedding and carpets. Pet saliva and urine can also stick to surfaces, including clothing.

Pet allergies are mostly caused by pets with fur like cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters. Pet dander is most often the biggest cause of pet allergy symptoms.

The most obvious way to know if you have a pet allergy is if you experience allergy symptoms when your pet is around, or you’re in an area that your pet frequents.

You can also find out if you are allergic to your pet by visiting an allergist. The allergist can do a skin-prick or blood test that will check for pet allergen -specific IgE (Immunoglobulin E).2 Sometimes these tests reveal that rather than being allergic to pet dander, you may be having a reaction to pollen or mold present on your pet’s fur that they bring in from outside.

Symptoms of a Pet Allergy

The most common pet allergy symptoms3 include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose or postnasal drip
  • Itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes

Some people allergic to pet dander or the proteins in pet urine or saliva might experience allergic dermatitis too, where symptoms present on the skin.

Symptoms of allergic dermatitis include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Eczema
  • Raised, red patches of skin called hives

Those who have high levels of sensitivity to pet allergens may experience coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath in as little as 15 to 30 minutes of exposure to allergens like pet dander. They may also get a rash on the face, neck, and chest area.4 Others who are not so sensitive might experience symptoms a few days later.

How to Alleviate Symptoms of a Pet Allergy

Pet allergy symptoms can most often be eased with a non-drowsy antihistamine like loratadine. This counteracts the effect of the chemical histamine in your body, which is produced as part of the allergic reaction.

However, if your symptoms do not ease or seem to get worse, you should see a doctor for advice. Meanwhile, if you don’t have a pet yet but want to get one, make sure you don’t have pet allergies before making the commitment. You can also do research on which breeds are hypoallergenic or those that shed less fur.

Can I Keep My Pet Even If I Am Allergic to It?

Yes, you can keep your pet despite being allergic to it as long as you know how to limit your exposure to their potential allergens, as well as manage your allergy symptoms should they arise.

You could keep your pet out of the house and in your garden, making sure it has shelter and space to run around in. If you can’t keep your pet out of the house completely, then make sure it doesn’t come into your bedroom where pet dander and other pet allergens could linger in the air or gather on bedding and other surfaces. Consider using a HEPA air filter in your bedroom. You should also try to keep your pet out of areas in the house you use a lot, like your living room or kitchen.

Keep your pet clean by brushing and bathing them often to get rid of pet dander. Wear a mask while you do this or ask someone who doesn’t have allergies to do it.

It also helps to have antihistamines like Loratadine (Claritin®) at the ready. Loratadine (Claritin®) works in as fast as 15 minutes5, provides non-drowsy6,7 allergy relief vs. first-generation antihistamines and cetirizine, and lasts up to 24 hours7, making it a suitable anti-allergy choice.

ASC Ref. Code: B126P032222CS


  1. Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges. Chan, S and Leung, D. 2018. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. Retrieved on December 1, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5809771/
  2. Pet Allergies. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Retrieved on December 9, 2021 from https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/pet-allergies/
  3. Pet Allergy. The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on December 1, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192
  4. Pet Allergy: Are you allergic to dogs or cats? Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved on December 01, 2021 from https://www.aafa.org/pet-dog-cat-allergies/
  5. Sur, Denise K C, and Monica L Plesa. “Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis .” American family physician vol. 92,11 (2015): 985-92.
  6. Kawauchi, H.; Yanai, K.; Wang, D.-Y.; Itahashi, K.; Okubo, K. Antihistamines for Allergic Rhinitis Treatment from the Viewpoint of Nonsedative Properties. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 213. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20010213
  7. Haria, Malini, et al. “Loratadine.” Drugs, vol. 48, no. 4, 1994, pp. 617–637., https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-199448040-00009.