Can Animals Have Allergies? Are They the Same as Human Allergies?

Many of Us Suffer from Excessive Immune Response to Dust, Stamens and Other Factors. What About Other Creatures?

animals and people with allergies

The immune systems of all mammals, including humans, have many common characteristics. For example, mice, cats and horses have a spleen, a lymphatic system, and white blood cells just like us. 

As we share with the rest of the mammals the benefits of an acquired immune system, which constantly learns to identify new threats, we may also share its shortcomings, such as allergies.

People can develop an allergic reaction to drugs, pollen of flowers and even innocent foods like peanuts and milk. 

And for reasons that are not completely clear, the body treats these substances, called allergens, as a hostile agent and mobilizes the immune system against them. 

Allergy can be manifested in respiratory, health, and skin problems such as shortness of breath, runny nose, and rash, depending on the substance and type of sensitivity of each person.

There have been no studies investigating wildlife allergies, but studies of domestic animals are abundant. 

In Sweden, for example, one in every 500 dogs at least develops atopic dermatitis, a disease with an allergic background that results from itching and chronic redness. 

Similarly, it is known that dogs, cats and even horses can suffer from asthma, allergic rhinitis and food allergies. 

Treatment of animals with an allergy is also similar to that of humans and relies on drugs that modulate the immune response, such as antihistamines and steroids.

Old friends, new enemies

Why do we develop allergies? In 1989, a physician named David Strachan suggested that the rise in the rate of skin diseases in the modern world is due to a decrease in exposure to infectious agents, which impairs the ability of the body to develop the ability to cope with them. His idea was called the hygiene hypothesis. 

In 2003 an updated hypothesis was suggested that the roots of this phenomenon lie in the relationship between the immune system and organisms that reside within the body.

The "old friends hypothesis"

According to this hypothesis, before the age of modern medicine, many parasitic organisms, including intestinal worms, bacteria and viruses, have been present in our bodies for the rest of our lives. 

Today, medicine knows how to destroy them, and in the absence of them there may be an imbalance in the immune system that results in overreaction, the secretion of inflammatory substances. 

Since these relationships evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, this theory was called The "old friends hypothesis".

Over the years, The "old friends hypothesis" has gained reinforcement, even when it comes to domestic animals. 

Recent research has shown that in dogs that grow in an urban environment and are not exposed to other animals, the incidence of allergic diseases is higher. 

Even in dogs who spend hours indoors, they find more allergic symptoms. It was also found that in dogs exposed to other animals and outside conditions, the population of bacteria on the skin was richer.

Studies have shown that people also live in an urban environment are at a risk for allergic diseases. An example is atopic dermatitis, which is less common in people living outside the city.

DNA can affect allergies?

Although allergic diseases have a clear genetic component (terriers, for example, develop more allergic symptoms than other dogs), it can be said that the interactions between bacteria and other parasites with the body have a decisive effect on the formation of allergies. 

The immune systems of many animals are similar to ours and therefore have the potential to react too strongly, so that dogs, cats and horses sometimes have allergic diseases. It seems that as with us, other animals also have a link between these diseases and the environmental conditions that shaped their immune systems and modern living conditions.

Feel free to comment and tell your allergic pet story!