Treating Pet Allergies
Allergy shots for pet allergies
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be indicated for cat or dog allergies, particularly when the animal cannot be avoided - as might be the case when the patient is a small animal veterinarian. They are typically given for at least three years and decrease symptoms of asthma and allergy. Usually after about six months of weekly injections allergy symptoms improve and less medication is required.
Allergy shots are most effective and safe when administered under the supervision of an allergist-immunologist. The response is highly individual and depends on environmental avoidance as well as the initial sensitivity of the individual.
Pet allergy diagnosis
The avid pet owner may claim that exposure to his or her pet does not cause their allergy symptoms. This, however, should be viewed skeptically, since pet ownership is an emotionally charged subject. Also, many allergic pet owners are rarely away from their pets, so an accurate reporting of pet-related symptoms may not be possible.
Skin tests or special allergy blood tests are helpful for diagnosing allergy to animals, but are not always accurate. To gain confirmation about a pet's significance as an allergen, the pet should be removed from the home for several weeks and a thorough cleaning done to remove the hair and dander. It should be understood that it can take weeks of meticulous cleaning to remove all the animal hair and dander before a change in the allergic patient is noted.
Managing pet allergies
If the family is unwilling to remove the pet, it should at least be kept out of the patient's bedroom and, if possible, outdoors. Allergic individuals should not pet, hug or kiss their pets because of the allergens on the animal's fur or saliva.
Indoor pets should be restricted to as few rooms in the home as possible. Isolating the pet to one room, however, will not limit the allergens to that room. Air currents from forced-air heating and air-conditioning will spread the allergens throughout the house. Homes with forced-air heating and/or air-conditioning may be fitted with a central air cleaner. This may remove significant amounts of pet allergens from the home. The air cleaner should be used at least four hours per day.
The use of heating and air-conditioning filters and HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filters as well as vacuuming carpets, cleaning walls and washing the pet with water are all ways of reducing exposure to the pet allergen. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are now available. However, in a patient with severe symptoms resulting from animal dander exposure, a HEPA filter is not an effective solution.
Litter boxes should be placed in an area unconnected to the air supply for the rest of the home, and should be avoided by the allergic patient.
Some allergic patients may have severe reactions, such as wheezing and shortness of breath, after exposure to certain pets. Also, a chronic, slowly progressive feeling of shortness of breath, loss of energy and feeling of fatigue can result from long-term exposure to birds and their droppings. This type of disease is known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and can result in severe disability. In the event of these severe cases, removal of the offending animal is mandatory.