Many people think that pet allergies are caused by a dog's or cat's fur (or any other pet, for what it matters), but the real source of pet allergies is often a protein that's in the saliva and urine of dogs and cats, also some produced in sebaceous glands. This protein sticks to the dead, dried flakes (dander) from your pet's skin.
Some cats or dogs may shed less dander than others, which potentially can lead to fewer symptoms.
The most interesting piece of research done so far came to the following conclusion:
There is also extensive research done by Prof A. Custovic, related to the development of allergies to pets (can provide references if asked).
The most common symptoms seen in pet allergy are very similar to most other airborne allergens.
But they will vary depending on the person's own sensitivity to the pet in question.
The greater the skin prick test and/or specific IgE, the higher the chance to develop more severe symptoms.
The worse respiratory symptoms tend to be associated with someone who already has an underlying breathing pathology, like asthma, poorly controlled allergic rhinitis or recurrent wheeze of varied aetiology.
This potentially can lead to significant deterioration, often leading to hospital admission for treatment, often including moderate to intensive admissions and treatment.
Prof John Warner, one of the best known worldwide experts in Allergy, has once said that "If you remove a cat from home, you clean all the walls down, do the laundry, do the draperies, it still takes six months for the level of cat protein to get down to normal."
More of less the same will apply to dogs.
Research done by Allergist Dana Wallace, MD, has shown cat dander to be the smallest among pets. This means it will remain airborne for at least 30mins after being disturbed, leading to constant exposure to it.
What to do?
Depending on the severity of symptoms, you might need to avoid the pet (leading to allergic symptoms) completely.
If mild, then you can try mild avoidance and cleaning methods, like:
Dr Costa is a Consultant Paediatrician and fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.