ASK DR. H: Dander root of pet allergy

Q: Why is it that I’m so allergic to cats but not to dogs? — J.W., Birmingham

People tend to be more allergic to cats because of their dander. AP Photo/ 24/7 Media, Suzanne Mapes

People tend to be more allergic to cats because of their dander. AP Photo/ 24/7 Media, Suzanne Mapes

A: The answer, in a word, is dander. The trigger for pet allergies is not their hair. In fact, cats that are short-haired traditionally give off more allergen. Protein in the skin of pets triggers allergies in susceptible people. It flakes off their dry skin, gets in their fur as dandruff and spreads when the pet grooms itself with its tongue.

Veterinary research has shown us that twice as many folks have cat allergies as dog allergies. It may be that the protein in a cat’s skin is more allergy provoking than a dog’s or simply that cats give off a greater quantity of dander.

Because dander collects in carpeting, the fabric of furniture and in bedding, it’s better for those who suffer from pet allergies to have hardwood or tile floors and leather furniture. If you have carpeting, steam cleaning it every three months will help to reduce dander.

Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: “Ask Dr. H,” P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA 30076. Because of the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.

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