What Is Pet Dander

What is Pet Dander?

Pet dander is made up of tiny, microscopic flakes of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds and other animals with fur or feathers. These flakes contain proteins that, when inhaled by humans, can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to them.

Where Does Pet Dander Come From?

All mammals naturally shed old skin cells. For pets with fur or feathers, old skin cells get trapped in their coats. As the animals move around, these dead skin cells are released into the air as dander.

Pet Dander Allergy Symptoms

When pet dander is inhaled, it can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Common symptoms of pet dander allergy include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
  • Coughing
  • Facial pressure and pain
  • Postnasal drip
  • Dark circles under the eyes (allergic shiners)

Managing Pet Allergies

To manage pet allergies, sensitive individuals can:

  • Take medication such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or allergy shots
  • Use high-efficiency HEPA air purifiers
  • Frequently vacuum and dust to remove dander
  • Wash hands after petting animals
  • Use allergen-resistant bedding and washing detergents
  • Restrict pets from the bedroom and upholstered furniture
  • Bathe pets regularly to minimize dander

For severe pet allergies, removing the pet from the home may be necessary. Consulting an allergist can help determine the best treatment options.

More on Pet Dander

What Makes Pet Dander Allergenic?

The main allergenic proteins in pet dander are secreted by oil glands in the skin and salivary glands in the mouth. These proteins help lubricate and protect animal skin and fur. Major pet allergen proteins come from cats (Fel d 1), dogs (Can f 1) and rodents (Mus m 1). People produce antibodies to react to these foreign proteins.

Cross-Reactivity Between Pets

There can be cross-reactivity between pet allergens, meaning sensitization to one pet can cause reactions to others. This is because allergen proteins in cats, dogs, rodents and birds share similar shapes and properties. People allergic to one pet are likely to be allergic to others.

Amount of Exposure Matters

The more pet dander present, the higher the reaction risk. Small pets like hamsters and gerbils produce less dander than larger pets like dogs. The number of pets, amount of pet hair, and time spent around pets also impacts allergen exposure.

Pet Dander Sticks Around

Pet dander particles are extremely small and lightweight, allowing them to become airborne and spread easily through homes. Dander takes weeks to months to settle out of home environments completely. Thorough and regular cleaning is required to remove it.

#FAQ #Update #AdditionalContent

Title Rewrite: “Understanding and Managing Pet Dander Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention”


1. What is pet dander and what are its sources?
2. What causes pet dander allergies?
3. What are the symptoms of pet dander allergies?
4. How can one differentiate between cat dander and dog dander allergies?
5. What are the options for testing and treating pet dander allergies?


1. Pet dander is comprised of tiny flakes of skin shed by animals with fur or feathers, such as cats and dogs. It’s a common allergen that can remain in the air and on surfaces for months.
2. Pet dander allergies are caused by proteins in an animal’s skin, hair, saliva, and urine. When allergic individuals come into contact with these proteins, their immune system overreacts, leading to symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes.
3. Symptoms of pet dander allergies can range from mild to severe and often include sneezing, itching, watery eyes, coughing, and wheezing.
4. Cat dander is generally smaller and more easily airborne than dog dander. Cats’ self-cleaning habits can lead to more allergens. While it’s more common to be allergic to cat dander, it’s possible to be allergic to both.
5. To diagnose pet dander allergies, either a skin prick test or blood test (IgE detection) is recommended. Treatments may include antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, leukotriene modifiers, or immunotherapy for long-term relief.

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