The prevalence of human allergy to pet danders has increased rapidly over the past six decades, as a consequence of lifestyle changes that have enhanced ambient exposure to pet allergens. This is a problem of global public health importance, as the morbidity associated with allergic diseases disproportionately affects socio-economically disadvantaged populations, particularly children. Although the public often seeks advice from veterinary health-care professionals regarding healthy pet ownership practices, including strategies for reducing residential pet dander exposure, many misconceptions persist in the public domain regarding pet dander allergy, such as the belief that certain dog and cat breeds are 'hypoallergenic' due to their hair/coat type. This review considers the epidemiology of human exposure to the major cat and dog dander allergens, Fel d 1 and Can f 1 respectively, and the sensitization mechanisms to them, including the hygiene hypothesis and the putative role of bacterial endotoxin. The literature regarding primary and secondary exposures in different ambient environments is explored including threshold effects that influence allergen sensitization and elicitation of symptoms, and environmental intervention strategies that seek to reduce allergen exposure. Pet-specific factors, including the aetiopathogenesis of the several cat and dog allergens that have been characterized to the molecular level, individual animal characteristics that influence Fel d 1 and Can f 1 shedding, and pet-directed interventions intended to reduce allergen dispersal, are discussed.
© 2010 The Author. Journal compilation © 2010 ESVD and ACVD.