Many people will have received pets as presents this Christmas and will be looking forward to getting to know their new furry friends over the coming weeks. However, pet allergies can have a big impact on our eyes. In this blog, Gurjeet Singh Jutley explores what you can do if you have been given a cat or dog as a gift and wish to protect your eye health whilst still enjoying the company of your new companion.

Symptoms you might experience

It’s not uncommon for people to enjoy long-lasting friendships with their pets even though they are in fact allergic to them. Expert ophthalmologist Gurjeet Jutley suggest Dog allergies are generally more severe and challenging than cat allergies, though cats can still cause considerable discomfort. Pets carry allergens such as dander, pollen, saliva and urine, all of which can irritate our eyes. When your eyes are irritated, they can become watery, start to burn or itch, turn red or go pink. Your eyelids may become puffy or swollen when you are affected.

Pets and dander

Dander (dead skin cells) is one of the biggest causes of eye irritation.  This irritation can come from the microscopic flakes of protein and skin found on and around pets. As your pets ages, problems with dander can worsen. When you are affected by dander, you may experience congestion, a runny nose and sneezing as well as eye irritation. According to Gurjeet Jutley the irritation occurs because our immune system triggers IgE antibodies to attack the allergen.

Saliva and urine

The proteins in pet saliva can also cause irritation. The allergens can become airborne when your pet releases saliva. Your pet’s urine includes ammonia, which can also irritate the eyes. If you experience prolonged exposure to ammonia, your eyes could become permanently damaged, and, in a worst-case scenario, you may even lose your sight.

What you can do

Steps you can take to protect your eyes if you are a pet owner include keeping them out of your bedroom and limiting physical contact with them. An air cleaner can help you reduce the number of allergens making their way through your home. You can avoid irritation by avoiding touching your eyes or face just after you have interacted with your pet. Make sure your cat’s litter tray is located away from vents and consider using antihistamines, allergy shots and eye drops if your symptoms become particularly challenging.

At Oxford Eye Health, we offer a range of eye care treatments and can advise on pet allergies and host of other eye-related conditions. Get in touch today to find out more. If you need advice realted to eye health you can also contact expert ophthalmologist and Glaucoma specialist Gurjeet Jutley by visiting his website.