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Are you allergic to your furry friend?

It’s been documented that having a pet can have many health benefits—increasing physical activity, lowering stress, providing emotional support, and more. But for about 15 percent of the U.S. population, pets with fur such as cats and dogs can trigger an allergic response. The number is even higher—around 30 percent—in people with asthma and other allergies. What causes pet allergy, and is there a way to manage it so you can keep your furry friend?

Are you allergic to your furry friend? Learn about functional medicine.

What is a pet allergy?

It’s an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, saliva, or urine. People sometimes mistakenly think it’s the animal’s hair or fur that’s the problem, but most often it is triggered by exposure to the dead flakes of skin called dander that a pet sheds. Cat allergies are nearly twice as common as dog allergies. While some people may be more sensitive to certain breeds of dogs, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet.

Symptoms of a pet allergy generally include sneezing, runny nose, itchy, red, or watery eyes, nasal congestion, itchy nose or throat, postnasal drip, cough, and occasionally facial pressure, pain, or swelling. In people with asthma, a pet allergy can also cause difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain, wheezing, and difficulty sleeping.

What causes some people to be or become allergic to pets—and what can you do?

As Dr. Z explains, “allergies are a breakdown of our immune tolerance—and this breakdown starts with emotional, dietary, or inflammatory stress.” As a functional allergist, Dr. Z’s approach to treating, managing—and even curing allergies—starts with bringing the immune system back into balance. 

While avoiding contact with the allergen is recommended in the short term, Dr. Z is more interested in helping patients get rid of the allergy altogether. This process involves a “whole-patient” approach that includes making dietary and other lifestyle changes for better health.

It’s interesting to note that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, animal shelters, rescues, and breeders have reported a sharp increase in pet adoptions, so much so that there aren’t enough animals to meet the demand. Before getting a pet, it’s wise to get checked for pet allergies before making the commitment. But if you already have a pet and find that it’s causing an allergy to flare up, there is hope. 

Schedule a consultation to learn more about Dr. Z’s holistic approach that combines functional medicine with traditional medicine. “As I like to say, it’s all about addressing the root cause, not just treating the symptoms.” 

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