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Animal Exposure, Asthma and Allergies

By Felicia Trembath

Category Reports

An estimated 62% of all United States households have one or more pet and more than 38% of households with pets have children under the age of 18 (Beck, 2010). Although the total number of pets in the United States does not seem to be increasing (AVMA, 2012), the relationship between people and their pets is intensifying, with pets increasingly occupying more territory in the home (Lockey, 2012). The frequency with which individuals interact with animals poses a special problem for allergic persons and their medical providers (Beck & Meyers, 1987). About 40 million Americans have indoor and outdoor allergies, and approximately 10 million of them are sensitive to material shed by animals (André & André, 2011). For individuals with allergies or a family history of allergies and asthma, the decision of whether to acquire or keep a pet can be a difficult one. This decision is compounded by the strong attachments that individuals have with their pets (Baker, 1979), with many pet owners viewing their pets not solely as an animal, but rather as a member of the family (Beck, 2010).

Despite years of research into the role that animals play in allergies and asthma, the relationship between animal exposure and the development of allergic or asthmatic symptoms still remains unclear. Consequently many
practitioners and pet owners do not know where to turn for reliable sources of information or recommendations. This brief addresses this gap in three ways. First, it summarizes the current knowledge on allergies and animals, including the effect of animal exposure in the first year of life and the maintenance of pets for allergic patients. Second, it makes recommendations for future research. Third, it identifies key resources for individuals who wish to further explore this issue.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date February 2015
Series Title HABRI Central Briefs
Pages 6
Language English
Institution Purdue University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Allergy
  2. Animal roles
  3. Asthma
  4. Cats
  5. Dogs
  6. HABRI Central Briefs
  7. Immunity
  8. Mammals
  9. Pet ownership
  10. Pets and companion animals