- Breath of Fresh Air: Feature Articles
- Chapter 40: My family and I would very much like to have a pet dog. I have asthma and allergies, and I understand that some dog breeds are less likely to bother my allergies than others. What type of dog do you recommend?
- Living With Pets When You Have Asthma
- Can You Have Asthma and Pets Too?
- Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats?
- Your furry family members
- Does Your Dog Have Asthma?
- Risk Factors
- Prevention Pays
- If I Have Asthma, Can I Keep My Pet?
- Protect Your Pet! Dogs and Asthma
- Asthma, Allergies, and Cats
- Exposure and sensitization to cat dander: Asthma and asthma-like symptoms among adults
Breath of Fresh Air: Feature Articles
Chapter 40: My family and I would very much like to have a pet dog. I have asthma and allergies, and I understand that some dog breeds are less likely to bother my allergies than others. What type of dog do you recommend?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog. It is true that some dogs have skin rather than fur, others have short rather than long hair, but all have the potential to stimulate the allergic response in some human beings. Persons with asthma and allergies will tell you that some dogs predictably bring on their symptoms and others do not. However, the sensitivity varies from person to person, and one cannot predict whether any particular strain of dogs will be entirely safe for any given person with allergies.
In fact, the allergic response is complicated. It is possible that you will have no immediate allergic reaction to a dog but rather gradually develop an allergic sensitivity over a period of months and years of continuous exposure. It is also possible that your allergic reaction will not be sudden and dramatic (such as itchy eyes, watery nose, and wheezing upon petting the dog). It may be slow and subtle such as a gradual worsening of your asthma and increased need for anti-asthmatic medications.
This is not to say that persons with asthma cannot have pet dogs. Many do, and do not experience allergic symptoms when in contact with the dog. They do not have — and do not develop — any allergic sensitivity to their animals. But for you to bring a new pet dog into your home is a gamble. It is possible that your asthma and allergies may worsen as a result, no matter which breed you choose.
If you are considering obtaining a pet, remember: human beings can make allergic reactions to warm-blooded animals and birds, not to reptiles and amphibians!
Living With Pets When You Have Asthma
For people with asthma, many seemingly innocent things in the home can trigger an asthma attack, including dust mites, mold, and pollen from the outdoors. Unfortunately for animal lovers, pet dander can also trigger asthma. It can be devastating to find out that your family pet is the cause of an asthma attack, but rest assured, there are ways to live with pets and prevent asthma attacks caused by pet dander.
Living With Pets: Where to Start
“We see a lot of patients who have been told they have to get rid of their pet, and they ask us to help them find a home,” says Lucy Tan, DVM, a veterinarian at Laingsburg Animal Hospital in Laingsburg, MI. But Tan understands the bind her clients find themselves in.
While it’s important that people first work with their doctor to find out how to manage pet-related asthma attacks, Tan says veterinarians have an important role to play as well.
“Most primary care physicians are not trained in how people and pets can live together,” she says. “I think for quite a few families it’s a big deal to be told you have to get rid of your pet. It’s worth looking at whether you can live together healthfully.”
How to Live With Pets and Reduce Risk of an Asthma Attack
As a veterinarian, Tan says she tries first to work with clients to change the way they live with their pets and reduce their risk of an asthma attack.
Steps that Tan recommends include:
- Vacuuming frequently. Vacuuming can control pet dander and hair inside the house.
- Practice good hair removal. Grooming your pet regularly and keeping your home and furnishings free of hair will help.
- Try “liquid dosing” for cats. Diluted doses of the sedative acepromazine have been shown to reduce the proteins in cat saliva that are responsible for many cat allergies, says Tan. However, she cautions that the effectiveness of this approach varies widely depending on the cat and the owner’s specific allergies.
- Try shampoos and sprays that neutralize dander. Dander consists of tiny scales shed from your pet’s skin. Because these stick to a pet’s hair, many people focus on the hair itself. In fact, it is the proteins in your pet’s saliva that get attached to the dander when your pet grooms that are the true source of your asthma attack. Some products claim to be able to neutralize dander. Tan recommends these products to her clients on a trial basis, but says she is still waiting to hear success stories.
- Control pets’ access to bedrooms. The best way to prevent an asthma attack is to avoid the allergen, says Tan. Keeping pets out of the bedroom or limited to certain rooms in the house are ways to coexist and still create an allergen-free space for yourself.
- Keep bedding clean. Dust mites love to eat pet dander, says Tan. “It’s one of their favorite foods,” she says. Tan recommends dust-mite covers on beds and cleaning pet beds often.
If you have tried making these adjustments and still have asthma attacks or uncontrolled allergies, your doctor can help you decide the next steps.
“The first thing is always to make sure whether or not the pet is contributing and to what extent it is contributing,” says Miles Weinberger, MD, professor of pediatrics and director, Pediatric Allergy & Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “I think it’s important that we not create homeless cats and dogs just on the theory that they may be contributing to asthma.”
Dr. Weinberger says that while sometimes it is obvious that a person has a strong allergic reaction to a pet, most cases are not clear cut. He will test a patient for a cat or dog allergy and determine what proportion of their asthma is due to a pet allergy before making any recommendations.
If you and your doctor find that living with a pet is not a healthy environment for you, your veterinarian can be a good resource for finding your pet a new home, says Tan.
Finding a New Pet: Are There Hypoallergenic Dogs?
The ideal pet is one to which you are not allergic, says Tan. Yet Tan does not believe in non-shedding or hypoallergenic dogs — all dogs shed, she says, but some just shed less than others.
The best way to find a dog would be to spend some time with the one you are considering adopting and find out if it triggers your allergies, advises Tan. Visit with the dog a few times, go home and see how your body feels, and then make a commitment if you are comfortable.
Can You Have Asthma and Pets Too?
Living with pets and asthma can be a tricky proposition, but it is possible for an asthmatic individual to peacefully co-exist with their four-legged best friend if they take proper precautions. The key to doing so is being aware of exactly what it is about your pet that triggers your asthma so that you can address it properly.
The common mistake most people make when it comes to pet allergies is assuming hair is the culprit. In fact, your pet’s hair has nothing to do with it whatsoever. The actual problem is animal dander. Dander, like dandruff in humans, is tiny flakes of skin that are shed every time your pet grooms. Because pets groom themselves with their mouths, that dander also contains saliva and it is protein in the saliva that actually triggers allergy attacks, including asthma.
Unfortunately, pet dander is by far the most common trigger for allergic-reactive asthma. When most people are diagnosed with asthma, the first thing their doctor asks is whether they have a pet. The assumption is that the only way to prevent asthma attacks is by removing the pet from the home, which can be heartbreaking for most animal lovers.
But getting rid of your pet should really only be considered as a last resort. Living with pets and asthma is entirely possible as long as you follow some simple steps. The first is to make sure you clearly identify the specific triggers of your asthma. It would be unfortunate to pin the blame on your dog if he isn’t really causing your symptoms at all. A prick test can help your doctor to pinpoint your exact triggers.
Once you’ve determined that your pet is the issue, then you can take steps to remedy the problem by reducing the amount of dander present in your home. Regularly vacuuming with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter can help to keep dust and dander to a minimum. So can regularly brushing and bathing your pet, in order to reduce dander and wash away any excess saliva on the hair or skin.
Because dust mites love to eat pet dander, you’ll also want to limit your pet’s access to your bedroom, where mites are most prevalent. You can use allergy covers on your mattress and pillows to block out dust mites and can also reduce dander issues by keeping pet beds clean.
Living with pets and asthma can also be made easier with the use of various products that are designed to neutralize dander. There are shampoos, sprays and liquid doses of medication that can be used on dogs and cats to neutralize the protein found in their saliva that causes an allergic reaction. These products are not harmful to the animal and can be a major help to individuals with allergies. You can ask your vet to recommend such a product if allergies are an issue for you.
A couple of products we highly recommend and use in our own home are Allerpet Solution that you can apply directly to your dog, cat or other furry animals that renders the dander pretty much harmless and the Allersearch ADMS antiallergen spray.
Don’t immediately assume that because you are allergic you can’t have pets. There is no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy the love and affection of your family pet even if you suffer from asthma. You’ll simply need to take extra precautions to help make living more comfortable for everyone.
Wishing you the best of health
The Allergy Store
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Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats?
Allergies to pets with fur are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. In the United States, as many as three in 10 people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
Is There Such a Thing as a Hypoallergenic Pet?
People with dog allergies may be more sensitive to some breeds of dogs than others. Some people may be allergic to all dogs. People may think certain breeds of dogs are “hypoallergenic,” but a truly non-allergic dog or cat does not exist.
What Causes a Pet Allergy?
The job of the immune system is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. Normally, this response protects us from dangerous diseases. People with pet allergies have over-sensitive immune systems. They can react to harmless proteins in the pet’s urine, saliva or dander (dead skin cells). The symptoms that result are an allergic reaction. The substances that cause allergic reactions are allergens.
Pet allergens can collect on furniture and other surfaces. The allergens will not lose their strength for a long time. Sometimes the allergens may remain at high levels for several months and cling to walls, furniture, clothing and other surfaces.
Pet hair is not an allergen. It can collect dander, urine and saliva. It also can carry other allergens like dust and pollen.
Cat and dog allergens are everywhere. Pet allergens are even in homes and other places that have never housed pets. This is because people can carry pet allergens on their clothing. Also, allergens can get into the air when an animal is petted or groomed. Pet allergens can also be stirred into the air where the allergens have settled. This can happen during dusting, vacuuming or other household activities. Once airborne, the particles can stay suspended in the air for long periods.
What Are the Symptoms of a Pet Allergy?
Cat and dog allergens can land on the membranes that line the eyes and nose. Reactions include swelling and itching of the membranes, stuffy nose and inflamed eyes. A pet scratch or lick can cause the skin area to become red. It is common to get itchy eyes after petting an animal then touching your eyes.
If allergen levels are low or sensitivity is minor, symptoms may not appear until after several days of contact with the pet.
Many airborne particles are small enough to get into the lungs. For some, this exposure can cause severe breathing problems. Highly sensitive people can begin coughing, wheezing and have shortness of breath within 15 to 30 minutes of inhaling allergens. Sometimes highly sensitive people also get an intense rash on the face, neck and upper chest.
Contact with a cat can trigger a severe asthma episode (asthma attack) in up to three in ten people with asthma. Cat allergies also can lead to chronic asthma.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Pet Allergy?
Your doctor will diagnose a pet allergy based on your symptoms, physical examination, medical history and test results. Your doctor can use either a blood test or skin test to aid in the diagnosis. Allergy testing will show if there is allergic sensitization to the animal.
Some people find it hard to believe that they could be allergic to their pets. The doctor may tell you to stay out of the home where the pet lives to see if your symptoms go away. It does not help to remove the dog or cat, because the allergen will remain. Pet allergens still in the home can cause symptoms months after the animal is gone.
What Is the Best Treatment for Pet Allergy?
The best treatment is to avoid contact with cats or dogs or the areas where they live. Keep pets out of your home. If possible, try to avoid visiting homes with pets that you are allergic to. Avoiding cats and dogs may give you enough relief that you will not need medicine.
Keeping the pet outdoors will help, but will not rid the house of pet allergens. Another option is to choose pets that do not have fur or feathers. Fish, snakes or turtles are some choices.
Pet allergy can be a social problem making it difficult to visit friends and relatives who have cats and dogs (and sometimes horses and other animals). This may be especially troublesome for children who cannot participate in activities at the home of friends. Talk to your doctor about possible use of medication before these social exposures and specific measures to take after the exposure.
What If I Want to Keep My Pet?
Removing the pet from the home is often the best treatment. However, if you still want to keep your pet, there may be some strategies to reduce exposure.
- Remove your pet from the bedroom. You spend from one-third to one-half of your time there. Keep the bedroom door closed and clean the bedroom aggressively. You might consider using a HEPA air cleaner in your bedroom.
- Animal allergens are sticky. So you must remove the animal’s favorite furniture, remove wall-to-wall carpet and scrub the walls and woodwork. Keep surfaces throughout the home clean and uncluttered. Bare floors and walls are best.
- If you must have carpet, select one with a low pile and steam clean it frequently. Better yet, use throw rugs and wash them in hot water.
- Wear a dust mask to vacuum. Vacuum cleaners stir up allergens that have settled on carpet and make allergies worse. Use a vacuum with a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filter if possible.
- Change your clothes after prolonged exposure with an animal.
- Forced-air heating and air-conditioning can spread allergens through the house. Cover bedroom vents with dense filtering material like cheesecloth.
- Adding an air cleaner combined with a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filter to central heating and air conditioning can help remove pet allergens from the air. Use an air cleaner at least four hours per day. Another type of air cleaner that has an electrostatic filter will remove particles the size of animal allergens from the air. No air cleaner or filter will remove allergens stuck to surfaces, though.
- Washing the pet every week may reduce airborne allergens, but is of questionable value in reducing a person’s symptoms.
- Have someone without a pet allergy brush the pet outside to remove dander as well as clean the litter box or cage.
- Talk to your allergist about options for medicine or immunotherapy.
Look for this mark to find products proven more suitable for people with asthma and allergies.
Find CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® products on our Certification program website or download our app on the App Store or Google Play.
Medical Review October 2015.
Your furry family members
Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, mice and rats can all trigger asthma and/or allergies in some people. But avoiding pet allergens can be difficult if the source is a much-loved furry family member.
As allergens are stuck to the hair and skin of pets, the allergens become airborne when the pet sheds their hair. The allergens can remain airborne for some time.
Cats and dogs are a major source of allergens in the home environment. The allergens come from the sweat glands in cats and salivary glands in dogs. As all cats and dogs have sweat and salivary glands there are no breeds that do not contain allergens, although the amount of allergen released can vary between breeds.
Cat allergen is especially difficult to remove from houses – it can remain in the house for months after the cat is removed. Cat allergen can be found in places where cats have never lived. For example, it can be carried around on clothing to schools and offices.
Ways you can reduce your exposure
The most effective way to reduce your exposure to pet allergens is to avoid those animals. If you know you are allergic to certain pets, ask friends to keep them outside when you visit.
If you are sensitive to your own pet, you can try to reduce how much allergen you come into contact with:
- Always wash your hands after touching your pet
- Keep your pet outside most or all of the time, making sure they have a safe, warm home outdoors
- Never let your pet into the bedroom
- After resettling your pet outside, clean the house thoroughly to remove sticky allergens left behind
- Vacuum carpets and upholstery regularly
- Ask someone else to groom your pet
- Do not wash your pet more than your vet recommends.
Even after taking these steps, it may take months before allergen levels are reduced. Make sure you take your prescribed medicines to help you keep your asthma and/or allergy symptoms under control.
If problems continue, unfortunately the only long-term solution may be to relocate your pet away from your home.
It is important to note that information contained in this brochure is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.
Does Your Dog Have Asthma?
by Valerie Trumps
Dogs naturally pant when they are hot or fatigued. But beware — and aware — for clues that may indicate asthma, a potentially life-threatening condition in pets.
As with humans, asthma in dogs is essentially an allergic reaction to something in the environment. Exposure to the allergen triggers inflammation and uncontrolled mucus or fluid production that may block or narrow airways to make breathing difficult.
Cats are much more susceptible to asthma than dogs, but small canines are more vulnerable than larger breeds.
Common allergen that can trigger an attack include smoke (from tobacco, fireplaces or wood stoves), household cleaners, air fresheners or deodorizers, perfumes, air pollution, airborne pollen, mold spores, pesticides and fertilizer, and cat litter particles. In some dogs, triggers may be as innocuous as cooking odors or the scent of a burning candle.
Fortunately, the signs of a canine asthma attack differ greatly from normal breathing and panting. Suspect asthma if your dog displays these symptoms:
* Pants more heavily and longer than usual. Look for “wide mouth” breathing and extreme expansion and contraction of chest muscles.
* Coughing, wheezing or seeming to be out-of-breath.
* Loss of energy or appetite.
* With severe attacks, the gums may be pale or even blue; that’s a sign your dog needs to get to the vet ASAP.
Asthma in dogs is usually diagnosed by X-ray and treated with various medications.
Consider these steps to create a safe living space for asthmatic dogs:
* Don’t smoke near pets.
* Use your fireplace and wood-burning stove as a decorative backdrop rather than to burn wood. Battery-powered candles, fake glowing logs, or non-toxic plants can give a cozy effect.
* Clean tile and hardwood floors with white vinegar, straight from the bottle or diluted with water.
* Consider ditching carpets. The manufacturing process loads them up with toxic chemicals that can probably never be gotten rid of.
* Instead of air fresheners and deodorizers, consider placing shallow bowls of baking soda around your house. They are easily hidden under furniture or behind knick-knacks and absorb odors well.
* Rather than wearing perfumes, consider essential oils that can be custom mixed to duplicate scents but without chemicals and allergens.
* Air-purifying machines are great for combating air pollution in your home. Less expensive options are reducing the humidity in your home by running the air conditioner and using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter in your air conditioners or HVAC system.
* Switch to a natural pesticide such as boric acid in areas your dog can’t reach.
* If cats share your home, use dust-free cat litter – better for the whole family’s air quality as well as your cat’s lungs.
* Bathe your dog regularly, making sure he is thoroughly dried.
Image: fef560 / via Flickr
If I Have Asthma, Can I Keep My Pet?
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Lots of people with asthma are allergic to animals. Some can keep their pets — and others can’t. It depends on a person’s asthma and if having a pet (like a dog, cat, or even a parrot!) makes symptoms worse.
What’s an Animal Allergen?
Things that make asthma worse are called allergens. Some people have animal allergens, which means they’re allergic to the proteins found in:
- animal dander (skin flakes, kind of like animal dandruff)
- animal saliva (spit)
- animal urine (pee)
Besides carrying dander, spit, or pee, animal fur or feathers also can collect other things that can make asthma symptoms worse, like:
- dust mites (tiny bugs)
- pollen (from plants)
And any animal that lives in a cage — from birds to gerbils — will have droppings that get mold and dust mites on them too.
How Can I Deal With Animal Allergens?
If your pet triggers your asthma, these tips might help:
- Start taking allergy medicine or getting allergy shots in addition to your asthma medicine.
- Keep your pet out of your room.
- Play with your pet but try not hug it or kiss it.
- Clean your room really well and get rid of any rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Keep your room free of dust.
- Have someone else wash and brush your pet every week (cats as well as dogs).
- Make sure everyone in your family washes their hands after touching the pet.
If you have a bird, gerbil, or other small caged animal, move the cage out of your room. Make sure your pet stays in its cage at all times. Have someone else clean the cage daily. Also make sure that the pet’s cage isn’t near any drafts. If the cage is sitting next to a heating or cooling vent, it could blow pet allergens through the room.
What If I Have to Say Goodbye to My Pet?
If you try all these things and are still having lots of asthma flare-ups, you might need to find another home for your pet. You may feel lots of different emotions — from sadness to anger. These feelings might be so strong that they make it hard to eat, sleep, or concentrate. This is a natural part of losing something that is precious to you.
How you handle things depends on your personality. You may want to be so busy so that you aren’t home to miss your pet, or you may want to spend time every day looking at pictures of you together.
There is no right or wrong way to handle feelings of loss. You might find it helpful to talk about it with friends, family, or a counselor.
It takes months for an animal’s allergens to leave the house, so it might take a while before your symptoms improve.
What About Other Animals?
Even if you no longer have a pet at home, you’re still going to be around animals from time to time. If you go to house where there is a pet, take any prescription allergy medicine before going and have your quick-relief medicine with you.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD Date reviewed: May 2017
Protect Your Pet! Dogs and Asthma
Most people know that asthma as a disease that affects hundreds of people, causing them to have difficult time breathing, but the condition is not just limited to human beings. While many people often associate owning a furry animal with triggering asthma attacks, it is actually possible for the pets themselves to be susceptible to the disease, which is also known as allergic bronchitis.
An asthmatic attack occurs when the airways in the lungs become inflamed. There can be a number of causes for inflammation, including illness, but the most common reason it happens is that your pet comes in contact with something that it is allergic to. When the allergens enter the dog’s respiratory system, it causes the bronchi, which are the passages inside the lungs that transport oxygen, to fill up with mucous and start to spasm. These spasms make it difficult for the dog to get sufficient air into its body. While the conditions can occur in both dogs and cats, it is much more commonly seen in cats, particularly Siamese and Himalayan breeds.
There is no definite age limit for pets to develop asthma, but it is extremely common in very young animals and those that are in their prime or just slightly past it, what we humans consider middle-age. Unless you notice an asthmatic episode in progress, you may not realize that your pet has the condition, as there are no symptoms when the dog is between episodes.
When an attack is about to occur, or is in the early stages, you may notice that your dog is coughing more than usual, or they may begin to wheeze. In emergency cases, the level of respiratory distress will manifest itself through the dog breathing with his mouth open, or the gums and tongue may have a purple look to them. If the condition is present in very old dogs, or those that are already suffering from other illnesses or medical conditions, attacks may be preceded by the animal going into a lethargic state or refusing to eat, which can lead to a drastic drop in their weight.
The only way to know whether your dog is suffering from asthma or a more serious illness or condition is to take him or her to the veterinarian. There, the doctor will most likely x-ray the animal’s chest in order to make certain that other respiratory conditions are not present. If the vet deduces that the condition is allergic bronchitis, they will then prescribe treatments of steroids, antihistamines or bronchodilators to control the attacks. Some of the newer asthma medications may contain a combination of these ingredients, in varying proportions.
The doctor may also want to perform other tests to find out the cause of the allergies. The exact triggers for asthma are still being investigated, but some potential substances such as cigarette smoke, dust from litter boxes, and cat litter and air pollution are prime candidates. Some dogs may also develop allergies to certain fragrances over time. If an asthma attack is extremely severe, the vet may need to give the dog an immediate injection of epinephrine, a hormone that helps to open the airways and makes breathing easier.
Fortunately for those who own a dog or cat that has been diagnosed with asthma, the condition is rarely life threatening, and there are enough medicines available to veterinarians now that most pets are able to live long and productive lives. Unfortunately, it will be necessary to find out the root cause of the allergies associated with the condition before work can begin on a way to completely cure pets of the ailment.
Until then, the best option for most pet owners is to work closely with your dog’s veterinarian to try and find out what triggers the reaction in your pet, and way to eliminate the cause or limit your dog’s exposure to it. Your vet can also help you determine the best way to treat the attacks as they occur, and determine which medications are most effective in providing relief to your dog.
Asthma, Allergies, and Cats
Along with researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Zeldin and NIEHS colleagues examined skin test data for 10 common allergens from a nationally representative sample of 10,508 people between the ages of 6 and 59.
The findings led the researchers to conclude that 56.3% of the asthma cases in the U.S. are linked to allergies.
Each of the 10 allergens was initially found to be associated with an increase in asthma risk, but after adjusting for other potential risk factors only sensitivity to cats (29%), Alternaria (21%), and white oak (21%) remained independent predictors of risk.
Other allergens tested included ragweed, dust mites, Russian thistle, Bermuda grass, peanuts, perennial rye, and German cockroach.
While the study confirms an increase in asthma risk among people with established cat allergies, it says little about the impact of specific exposures to cats or the other asthma-related allergens identified.
The distinction is likely to be important to anyone who shares a home with a feline.
The findings would seem to indicate that exposure to cats increases asthma risk, but other studies have suggested that exposure early in life may actually protect children from developing cat allergies in the first place.
Exposure and sensitization to cat dander: Asthma and asthma-like symptoms among adults
Background: Several pets, such as cats, dogs, and rodents, are known to produce allergens. Despite the clinical and laboratory evidence that exposure to pets can cause bronchoconstriction in sensitized subjects, the results of population studies have been contradictory. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between cat ownership and the prevalence of asthma, asthma-like symptoms, and bronchitic symptoms among subjects 20 to 44 years of age in Vancouver, Canada and to determine whether sensitization is responsible for such an association. Methods: Two thousand nine hundred ninety-nine (88%) randomly selected subjects responded to a mail questionnaire. Of these, 504 participated in laboratory examination, including allergy skin testing. Results: One thousand nineteen study responders (34%) were pet owners at the time of the study (current owners). Current pet owners were found to have a higher prevalence of current asthma, asthma-like symptoms, and bronchitic symptoms compared with those without pets. Cat owners had significantly higher risk of having current asthma and asthma-like symptoms. In the subset who had allergic skin tests, we found that those who were allergic to cat dander had a significantly higher risk of current asthma than those not allergic to cat dander and not owning a cat. Conclusion: This study provides evidence that sensitization to cat dander is a more important risk factor for current asthma and asthma-like symptoms than cat ownership itself. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999;103:60-5.)