Your Eyes Are Red & Itchy
Watery eyes are a common symptom of pet allergies, as are red, dry, itchy eyes. A lot of people think this is just a result of general allergies from being outside and being exposed to pollen, but that itchy feeling in your eyes can also happen after you’re around your cat, especially if you pet them or hold them and then touch your eyes.
âWe see a lot of people getting a stuffy nose or red, itchy, watery eyes. And for some people, that can happen from a distance, so if even there’s just a cat in the room, these symptoms can still happen,â says Price. In particular, itâs the cat dander that sets this particular type of allergic reaction off. These are â and brace yourself, because this can sound a little gross â âmicroscopic pieces of dry cat skin that become airborne, landing on bedding, curtains, carpeting, and other surfaces, including humans’ skin and clothing,â per The Spruce Pets. So, not an easy one to avoid.
Diagnostic Challenges In Allergies To Cats Compared To Dogs
Detecting sensitization to cats has been easier than dogs. Purification and characterization of the cat component protein Fel d 1 occurred in 1973 by Ohman et al. This has led to measuring class specific antibodies, production of protein specific antibodies used to measure exposure, crude extract standardization, and generation of T cell specific peptides. In individuals who had a positive exposure challenge, 38 of 41 had positive SPTs. Compared to a historical recollection of symptoms to exposure, SPT results equal or > 3 mm to cat had a sensitivity of 0.90 sensitivity, specificity of 0.90, with a diagnostic accuracy of 0.90. The authors also noted that a tenfold dilutions of cat extract reduced sensitivity without significantly improving specificity. Concordance between Phadebas RAST and SPT was 94% and Pharmacia CAP System and SPT was 91%.
Tricky Relationships With Humans
Some people dislike cats because they are fickle and aloof when it comes to relationships with their human housemates. If someone makes a cat uncomfortable or frightened, a cat will be sure to make it known with a hiss or a swat.
In comparison to subordinate and fun-loving dogs, cats may seem unappreciative. In nature though, cats and dogs evolved very different lifestyles. Dogs evolved to live in family packs, as teamwork was needed to hunt large prey. Wild cats eat smaller prey and evolved to be lone hunters and fishers. And yet it is that very same independent nature of cats that make them very adaptable to our changing environments and changing daily routines.
As long as cats are socialized to humans as kittens, cats can form close bonds with their humans. But when a self-directed independent cat acts in a stand-offish manner, it is most often due to a new person coming into the household.
Even the shy cat is observant and assesses the relative safety of newcomers. Given time to learn, a cat will usually come around to accept them as a friend and trusted caregiver.
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Unmet Needs And Future Directions
Numerous unmet needs continue to plague the diagnosis and treatment of allergies especially to dogs . Of primary importance is the need to create a high quality well characterized dog allergen preparation. Currently, different manufacturers use different processes with different raw materials to create crude extracts of uncharacterized quality and content. These products are not generic, but differ widely in compositions and therefore IgE binding capacity. This yields widely variable results in IgE testing as well as SPT. No international standard nor standardization method has been developed to date. All the different commercial products perform differently on patients leading to inconsistent results and data. This results in conflicting data that cannot be extrapolated and interpreted on overall dog allergies and the effectiveness of different therapies. Advanced protein isolation techniques should be used to manufacture pure extracts free of contamination with high component allergen protein concentrations. Data suggests that recombinant allergens may be comparable to natural proteins and should be considered.
Allergy Skin Prick Test
This test is performed in your doctors office so they can observe any reactions.
Using a clean needle, your doctor will prick your skins surface , and deposit a tiny amount of the allergen. Youll likely be tested for several allergens at the same time. Youll also be skin pricked with a control solution that has no allergens. Your doctor may number each prick to identify the allergen.
In about 15 to 20 minutes, the skin prick site may become red or swollen. This reaction confirms an allergy to that substance. A positive cat allergy will usually cause a red, itchy bump to the cat allergen. These unpleasant effects generally go away 30 minutes after the test.
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Do All Cats Provoke An Allergic Response
In an allergic individual, the signs of a reaction can occur if the allergen is inhaled or a person strokes a cat, cleans its litter tray or even sits where the cat has been sitting. Different individuals have different levels of allergies some cannot tolerate being in a room where cats have been, whereas in others the reaction may be much milder.
All breeds of cat produce allergens, but some may produce more than others it can be a case of trial and error to ascertain which cats you react to . Although the reason is not clear, many people seem to react more to longhaired cats perhaps because more allergen builds up on their fur or accumulates because of more hair around the house. Likewise, even cats with little hair such as Rexes or Sphynx cats still cause reactions as the allergy is not to the cats hair itself. As noted above, entire male cats may produce more of the proteins that cause the allergy and are therefore probably a greater risk to an allergic individual, female cats are likely to produce the lowest amounts.
Development Of Hypoallergenic Cats
In 2006, a company in the USA called Allerca Inc introduced what was claimed to be cats that were hypoallergenic in other words, a cat that did not produce the protein provoking an allergic response in people. According to the company, they identified cats that produced a variant of Fel d 1 that was sufficiently different not to provoke an allergic response. No accepted scientific data was produced to support this claim, and by 2010 the company had apparently stopped selling these cats. The validity of their claims are still debated, but producing a truly hypoallergenic cat is likely to be extremely difficult as although Fel d 1 and Fel d 4 are the major protein causing an allergy, many others can also be involved. Another area of concern would be the size of the gene pool used during the selective breeding programme to develop these cats using what might be a very small gene pool may allow other significant problems to arise in these cats.
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Primate Venom Sheds Light On Why So Many People Suffer Cat Allergies
Research into the toxin of the worlds only venomous primate, the slow loris, is shedding light on the potential origins of the allergic qualities of cats.
Slow lorises are the only known primates with venom and theyve been virtually unstudied, Dr Fry said.
Despite being a mystery to science, theyre commonly smuggled from the wild and sold in the pet trade, so our rescue centre research was the perfect opportunity to do some good in a bad situation.
Generally slow lorises use their venom to fight with other slow lorises, causing very slow-to-heal wounds.
But, when humans are bitten, the victim will display symptoms as if theyre going into allergic shock.
He said this similarity was even more striking when studied in the lab.
We analysed the DNA sequence of the protein in slow loris venom, discovering that its virtually identical to the allergenic protein on cats.
Cats secrete and coat themselves with this protein, and thats what you react to if youre allergic to them.
Our theory is that since this protein is being used as a defensive weapon in slow lorises, it makes sense that cats may be using the allergen as a defensive weapon too.
The fact that so many people are allergic to cats mightnt be a coincidence.
The research has been published in Toxins .
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Thumbnail: Photography by fotostok_pdv/Thinkstock.
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What Is There To Do
Male cats produce higher levels of Fel d 1 than females and neutered males. The difference is however relatively small, so if youre struggling it probably wont matter that much.
The same goes for so-called hypo-allergenic cat breeds. While they do work for some allergic cat lovers, they still produce Fel d 1. So if you have severe reactions to some cats, getting one that produces less dander wont make it possible for you to live with one. The only thing you can do is to spend time with the breed youre potentially planning to buy or adopt beforehand and see how you get on.
Antihistamines can be a help to some allergic people if taken regularly they minimize symptoms and make it possible to spend time in a house where a cat has been. They are normally best taken preventatively, making sure the body is prepared should it come across any triggering allergens. Its however not recommended to depend on antihistamines on a daily basis to make it possible for you to get a cat. Even if its sad, you might have to come to terms with your allergy and that cat ownership might not be possible at the moment.
This entry was posted in Cats
How Is Pet Allergy Diagnosed
A diagnosis of pet allergy is made based on your medical history and a physical examination. Your doctor might refer you to an allergy specialist for a skin-prick test or blood test for confirmation.
Avoid online or over-the-counter allergy test kits or other unconventional allergy tests. Many are not evidence-based, and dont provide accurate results.
In particular, avoid unproven tests and treatments such as applied kinesiology, the Vega test, hair analysis, serum-specific IgG tests, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques , and cytotoxic tests such as ALCAT, FACT and Bryans test.
See your doctor for advice.
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Picking The Right Breed
To have the greatest success it’s important to choose the right breed of cat to own. Several breeds of cat have far fewer allergy inducing dander and skin than other breeds. Cats that are safer for owners include Cornish Rexes, LaPerm, Oriental Shorthairs, and Devon Rex. These breeds are safer to own than other breeds when you are allergic to dander, because their fur has fewer layers. This means that there is less dander and less fur to fly around, so people with dander allergies are able to tolerate them much better.
The Sphinx cat, which is nearly hairless is one of the most popular breeds for people with dander allergies, while the Siberian is less likely to cause allergies for people allergic to the glycoprotein found in the saliva and skin, because their saliva has very low levels of Fel D1. There are nohypoallergenic cats cats that have been bred to show distinctive hypoallergenic traits, such as a lack of the allergy causing protein or different fur. Be wary of breeders or pet shops who make this claim.
Many People With Cat Allergies Have Kitties Anyway
About 10 percent of people are allergic to household pets. For that selfless section of the population who love on pet cats despite being allergic, theres good news and bad news about managing those allergies.
Contrary to popular belief, every cat produces Fel d 1, so no breed is totally hypoallergenic. That said, it is known that non-neutered male cats produce higher levels of the pesky Fel d 1 protein. Female and neutered male cats produce a lower amount of the allergen. For this reason, researchers hypothesize that the Fel d 1 protein may be involved in pheromone signaling, but the purpose of the protein is unknown.
When it comes to hypoallergenic cat breeds, its now easier to see the underlying mechanism. Instead of it being a breed that doesnt produce the allergen, its a breed that produces lower levels of it and one that doesnt have the fur or hair to easily transmit the allergen to the air, environment, and, ultimately, you. According to petMD, Siberian and Balinese breeds top the hypoallergenic cat breed list, since they produce lower levels of Fel d 1. This is followed by breeds like the Sphynx and shorthairs that create less dander and fur to transmit Fel d 1.
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It Feels Like You Have A Constant Sore Throat
Pet allergies will generally make you feel like you’re living with a cold that won’t go away, and can result in sneezing and coughing. Cat allergies can also lead to a post-nasal drip, a condition in which you produce more mucus which is also thicker in volume, causing it to slide down your throat and create the sensation of a constant sore throat.
One symptom of this type of allergic reaction is that you might also notice that it comes and goes. It could be worse in the morning and at night, or only really bad whenever you’re home. If you always feel like you have a cold, but no fever or any other symptoms, see an allergist.
How To Live With Cat Allergies
There are several preventative measures that can be taken to mitigate your allergy. Petfinder has helpfully compiled a comprehensive list of the most effective strategies. Here are the top few:
- Clear the air! Invest in a high efficiency particulate arrestance/air filter. Remember that the cat allergen can linger for long periods of time, so continuously straining it out of the air will reduce your exposure to the allergen.
- Make your bedroom a cat-free zone. This means wash or, better yet, replace your bedding. Allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers are highly recommended and can be purchased at most home stores.
- Limit kittys domain. Establish designated areas where your cat can travel within your house. Keep your cat away from your workstations by closing doors, for example. Make sure to supply plenty of cozy, warm places in kitty-approved areas.
- Minimizing upholstered furniture and rugs or carpeting can vastly reduce the amount of allergen buildup in your home. Carpeting, in particular, can accumulate 100 times as many allergens as hardwood floors.
- Brush your catoutside! If you have an open-air enclosure, use this space to brush your cat. This way allergen-laden dander can disperse and blow away, rather than accumulating in your home.
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Symptoms Of Minor To Moderate Cat Allergies
Symptoms of cat allergies can vary. They often depends on exposure level and how severe the allergy is.
When cat allergens make contact with the mucus membranes that line the eyes and nose, they can cause swelling and itching, which can lead to a stuffy nose and inflamed eyes, explains Melanie Carver, chief mission officer of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “It is common to get itchy eyes after petting an animal then touching your eyes,” she says. “If you have an animal allergy, a pet scratch or lick might cause redness in the contact area of your skin.”
Cat and dog allergens are also a problem because they are so small, says Darryl C. Zeldin, MD, scientific director for the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This, in part, is one of the reasons cat and dog allergens are strongly associated with asthma. People with asthma experience swelling, narrowing, and increased mucus production in the airways, which can interfere with breathing. “Because cat allergens are so small, they can stay in the air a long time, and it’s easy to inhale them, where they can get way down into the lungs,” he explains.
Because pet allergens can be found virtually anywhere, Dr. Zeldin says it’s often difficult to determine when or how someone exposed themselves. Carver says that most people have animal allergies for several years or their entire life.
Management Options For Dog And Cat Allergic Patients
Current recommendations for controlling clinical symptoms caused by dog and cat allergens primarily includes avoidance to exposures. Bathing animals at least twice per week reduces allergens and can eliminate reactions. Immediate removal of the pet from the household will not alleviate symptoms particularly if the owner has carpeting in their home. Mammalian allergens are very stable and persist in house dust up to 6 months.
The treatment of dog and cat allergies with immunotherapy depends on reliable and consistent allergen extracts. Unlike cat allergen extracts, differences in the manufacturing of dog allergen extracts exist even today. In the United States, allergens are typically manufactured in an aqueous solution. In Europe, products used for SCIT are usually prepared with aluminum hydroxide which forms a complex with the active allergens and is thought to act as a depot thereby releasing the allergens more slowly. Without adequate standardization, the amounts of different specific protein allergens vary enormously, thus making assessment of therapeutic improvement impossible. Safety of SCIT is also an issue, if a patient is highly sensitive, different manufactured lots even from the same manufacturer with different amounts of component allergen proteins can lead to adverse reactions when those individuals are suddenly exposed to high levels.
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