Animal danders

Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2003 Aug;23(3):469-81. doi: 10.1016/s0889-8561(03)00004-3.


Animals release proteins into their surroundings through secretions, as excretions, or as dander. The quantity of dander that is dispersed by cats, dogs, or humans is sufficient to supply food for dust mites and to supply easily measurable quantities of proteins in dust. Fel d 1, Can f 1, and human IgA or IgG can be found in microgram quantities in dust samples. Allergens also can accumulate from the urine of wild or pet rodents. For cats and dogs, the accumulation of dander particles is not related to the cleanliness of the animals. All animals, including humans, provide a fully adequate supply of organic material for bacterial growth in a carpet, provided conditions are sufficiently humid. The authors' preliminary results in Virginia do not find a significant difference in endotoxin between homes with or without animals. The likely explanation for the nonallergic IgG and IgG4 response to cat, dog, or rat allergens is high exposure to proteins from these animals. If the highest levels of cat allergen in a home can result in immunologic tolerance, it is unlikely that primary avoidance would be successful at reducing exposure. The data showing that 80% of Swedish children with cat allergies never had lived with a cat imply that the concentrations of cat allergen in schools or in houses without a cat are sufficient to cause sensitization. Primary prevention would be possible only on a community basis, which is unlikely to occur. Sensitization to cat, rat, dog, or mouse allergens consistently is associated with asthma. In symptomatic children with positive skin test results, there is a strong case for allergen avoidance and a clear need for controlled trials. Controlled trials of avoidance should include houses without cats and schools. Controlling exposure to cat allergens with the cat in situ requires aggressive measures, such as removing reservoirs, washing the cat, and air cleaning. Many allergic or symptomatic children who live with a cat do not have positive skin test results or positive IgE antibodies to cats. Avoidance measures related to animals should be recommended only for individuals with positive skin test results. Increasing evidence shows that exposure to cats, dogs, rats, and other animals can induce a form of immunologic tolerance without causing allergic disease, and it is important to understand why this change occurs with dander allergens rather than with all allergens. The most probable explanations are related to the form and quantity of airborne allergens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor
  • Allergens*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Cats
  • Child
  • Dogs
  • Dust
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Particle Size
  • Proteins / immunology
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Skin*


  • Allergens
  • Dust
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Proteins