Can You Be Allergic To Animal Hair?

The question ”can you be allergic to animal hair?” is very common among pet owners and pet lovers. which is why this article is dedicated to answering it. It is not-so-surprising that a lot of families include a pet these days. If you have a pet, then you are part of the large number.

Even individuals who live alone feel less lonely when they have an animal companion around. A variety of animals are used as pets today, but the most common pets remain cats and dogs with birds fast tracking behind. Some persons keep, mice, monkeys and even animals you’d have never imagined will share a living space with a fellow human.

Still, we make it happen.We train our pets to scourge round the house like part of the family and we go through great lengths to take care of them like a parent. Pets are fun and it’s nice to be around them. They make great companions and play buddies. These are just a few reasons why humans like to keep pets.

Unfortunately, some persons have pet allergies. This means their immune system acts up when exposed to certain animals. But, are they reacting to the animal’s hair? We’ll find out.

Apart from being a pet owner, some workers are also at risk of having a pet allergy. Zoo attendants, farmers, veterinarians and other health workers who are constantly exposed to wild animals and household pets can develop an allergic reaction after being exposed to a certain animal.

Are the hair cells of these animals guilty of triggering the immune system in individuals that show signs of allergic reaction? Or are there some hidden schematics we need to know about? Well, we are about to find out.

Does Animal Hair Trigger An Allergic Reaction In Humans?

Do you want the straight answer? Well, not exactly. The hair cells in animals, mammals to be more specific are quite similar to those in humans, but the explanation is a bit more complicated than that, so stick around and learn.
Allergic reactions are caused by specific proteins produced by an animal.

These proteins are referred to as allergens. These allergens are found in the dry skin cells of animals and in substances (bodily fluids) produced by their sebaceous, salivary and anal glands. The dry skin cells are called dander. They are shed off just like hair from the animal’s body and linger on surfaces, even in the air.

Animal allergens produced by different glands in their body could trigger an immune reaction in susceptible individuals. Dander containing allergens are not exactly part of the animal’s hair, but could be attached to it and get shed together.

When a person who is allergic to the allergen produced by an animal is exposed to the animal or the allergen on a surface or in the air, they begin to show symptoms after a few minutes or longer. Depending on how long it takes to experience symptoms after exposure to an animal, some persons might be unsuspicious of the fact that they have an animal allergy.

These allergens are harmless to the animals that produce them. Additionally, they are also needed for their normal physiological functions including their immunity and social behavior. Every animal has a special set of allergens that could trigger an allergic reaction in certain individuals.

So, if a person has an allergy to cats, his/her immune system would react on exposure to any cat species.It is also important to note that the common saying stating the existence of hypoallergenic breeds of an animal is completely false.

The length of an animal’s hair and the amount of hair it sheds does not determine the allergic reaction it provokes in predisposed individuals. The allergic reaction is triggered by allergens found in the animal’s dander talked about above.

The Fel d 1, is an allergen produced in cats, it was the first discovered animal allergen, identified in the year 1991. It is produced in the salivary, sebaceous and anal glands of a cat. It moves onto the cat’s fur whenever the cat cleans itself. All species of cat produce this specific allergen. Apart from cats, different animals produce allergens, like dogs, rabbits, hamsters and mice.


Symptoms of pet or animal allergy are usually obvious some minutes after exposure to a certain animal. They can persist for months after the animal is gone because the allergen remains in the air, on clothes and surfaces too. Animal allergies usually affect the respiratory system and the skin. Common symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • red patches of the skin
  • Watery eyes and nose
  • Exposure to animals for a long duration can cause more chronic symptoms like nasal congestion. You might not suspect that your symptoms are caused by an allergy to animals.

Allergens can trigger a reaction in asthmatic patients when they are breathed in which includes difficulty breathing and a tight feeling in the chest


If you suspect you are showing symptoms of animal allergy or any kind of allergy at all, take a trip to see a doctor (an allergist or an immunologist) so you can be sure of what’s going on and quickly remedy the situation. Tell your doctor the symptoms you have been experiencing, when you experience it and how often you do.

He/she might ask follow up questions; make sure to answer honestly for your own good. If an animal allergy is suspected, a series of test might be carried out to confirm it including exposure to certain allergen to rule it out or to see if it causes any reaction. Your doctor knows the tests to perform for each case and has probably dealt with similar cases like yours in the past, so relax.

Prevention And Treatment

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction to an allergen is to avoid the source of that allergen and that might involve letting go of a loved pet unfortunately. Your immunologist might also recommend immunotherapy, use of antihistamines and other forms of treatment. Make sure to discuss with a professional before you begin taking treatment of any kind. There are other ways to manage symptoms and limit exposure to the allergens produced by an animal.

  • If you are allergic to a pet, don’t allow it enter your bedroom. Keep it away from your bed and furniture.
  • Avoid hugs and kisses from such animal
  • Ask someone who isn’t allergic to the animal brush it’s fur
  • Carpets and rugs might hold allergens, so you might want to get rid of them
  • Using HEPA (1) cleaners also help cleanse the air of dander and animal hair
  • Lastly, avoiding the source of allergen still remains the most viable method of preventing animal allergies. You may need to get your pet a new home or get a new job if it is possible.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the answer to the question is somewhere in between. While an animal’s hair does not actually cause an allergy in individuals by itself, the dander containing allergens produced by the animal’s glands can latch onto the hair follicles. When susceptible persons come in contact with such hair strands, they have an immune reaction.

But, the hair is not the trigger of the immune response; it is actually the allergens the animal produces.
If you or anyone you know show allergic symptoms after being exposed to a certain animal, I advise you talk to a professional and heed his/her advice. Ultimately, you might have to avoid the source completely or find a way around it. However, make sure you do the best you can to protect your health from anything that threatens it.


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