Treating a Human Allergy to Cat and Dog Dander

Allergy to cat and dog dander is frequent in humans, and around 10% of pet owners are allergic to their pets. Many people believe that cat or dog hair causes allergies, but a protein that is present in cat or dog dander is the actual cause of allergic reactions. This protein is also present in the saliva of a cat or dog.

Human allergies to cat and dog dander may be treated in different ways. Typical symptoms of dander allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy skin
  • Rashes
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Stuffy nose

These symptoms are common for all types of allergies. It's important that the diagnosis is accurate, otherwise the treatment will not be efficient.

Diagnosing Dander Allergy

The best way to diagnose dander allergies is by skin or intradermal testing.

Skin testing will consist of shots under the skin using different allergens. If you suspect you are allergic to cat or dog dander, let your doctor know, so he will perform these tests first. If there is a rash on the skin 2 to 5 hours after the injection with the allergen, the diagnosis is clear.

Blood tests such as the RAST or ELISA may also show an accurate diagnosis.


Allergen immunotherapy is the most effective way to manage dander allergies. The therapy will consist of subcutaneous injections that contain the allergen - in this case, the protein in the dander and saliva that causes the negative reactions.

Extensive exposure to this allergen will cause the allergic person to be less sensitive to pets. This therapy is also called hyposensitization and will start to be effective after 1 or 2 months of shots. Short term medication should be administrated until the allergy shots are effective.

The immunotherapy has no significant side effects, but is not recommended for people that take heart or blood pressure medication.


Allergies cause an overproduction of histamines, so the administration of antihistamines can relieve the allergic reactions. However, antihistamines are only temporary solutions, so if you have a pet, you should consider hyposensitization therapy.


Steroids can be administrated as oral medication or applied locally on itchy and red skin to relieve these symptoms. As with antihistamines, steroids are only short-term solutions.

Frequent Pet Bathing

Frequent pet bathing will reduce the amount of loose dander in your home and you will experience fewer allergic reactions. Use a shampoo that is effective for cat or dog dander. If your pet refuses to take a bath, you may use a damp cloth to clean your pet’s skin.

Cleaning Your Home

Cleaning your home will reduce the amount of dander that can be located on the floor, furniture, drapes, carpets or pillows. Vacuum thoroughly at least twice per week. Use air fresheners or plug-ins which will clean the air.

Cat Free Bedroom

If you can stand not having your pet in the bedroom, it is highly recommended that you don’t allow your cat or dog in there. This will limit your exposure to pet dander and you will have fewer symptoms.