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Pets and Psoriasis: Could Man’s Best Friend Be Your Skin’s Enemy?

Does your psoriasis have you thinking twice about getting a furry friend? Read the facts, here. 

For animal lovers, there’s nothing more soothing than cuddling up to a four-legged friend. Unless, of course, you’re part of the 10% of people who are allergic to animals.1 Mix psoriasis with a pet allergy, and you could have a real problem on your hands…and feet, knees, elbows…You get the picture.

Allergies vs. psoriasis?

Let’s be purr-fectly clear: there is no conclusive evidence that pet allergens can trigger psoriasis. However, people with psoriasis are likely to have a higher number of inflammatory mast cells – the ones responsible for allergic reactions like swelling and itching.2 These are the same cells that react in people with pet allergies, when the immune system overreacts to a protein found in animal dander (dead skin cells), urine, sweat and saliva.3 So, if you have psoriasis and a pet allergy, it’s easy to see how the two could get mixed up with each other.

If you own or are thinking of owning a pet

If you already own a pet – and have allergies and psoriasis – don’t assume you have to say goodbye to your furry friend. Instead, there are a few ways you can potentially minimize the impact of animal allergens. For example, washing your hands after petting sessions and wiping the surfaces in your house clean are effective ways to reduce the transfer of pet dander.4 We’re not saying that these tips will reduce symptoms of psoriasis, but they can help reduce pet allergens.

If you are paw-ndering owning a pet, choose carefully. Some animals certainly carry more allergens than others. For example, cat allergies are twice as common as dog ones, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.5  

 

(Sorry, little kitty)

A little help from our furry friends

And now for some good news. If you don’t have a pet allergy, you may find owning an animal to be beneficial. Research suggests that spending time with animals can be good for your health, as it may trigger the release of the so-called ‘hug hormone,’ oxytocin.6 This lowers the production of the stress hormone cortisol, helping to reduce blood pressure.7,8 Or, at the very least, it’s unlikely these furry companions understand or care about your psoriasis, allowing them to get close to you, when some people stay away. Which brings us back to the whole stress-and-psoriasis thing, because as it turns out, anything that helps to ease tension – petting a ridiculously cute animal, for instance – may potentially reduce stress.

Virtual pets

You may not need to own a pet to benefit from animal therapy. According to one study, watching cat and dog videos can be deeply relaxing, and help reduce negative emotions.9  In other words, spending time on the internet looking at dog and cat videos could actually benefit your health. Who knew? Of course, your boss may take some convincing...

In any case, if you’re thinking of getting a pet, or are curious if a pet ignites your flare-ups, be sure to speak to your doctor. Asking if psoriasis is coming from a pet is actually a pretty common question, says Dr. Katie Beleznay. And if a furry friend is not in your future, you can always adopt a goldfish – they need love too!

  1. Website “Live Science” - Nothing to Sneeze At: Cats Worse Than Dogs for Allergies” By Lindsey Konkel. http://www.livescience.com/36578-cat-worse-dogs-allergies-pets.html
  2. Mast cells and inflammation. Theoharis C. Theoharides, Konstantinos-Dionysios Alysandratos, Asimenia Angelidoua, Danae-Anastasia Delivanisa, Nikolaos Sismanopoulosa, Bodi Zhanga, Shahrzad Asadia, Magdalini Vasiadia, Zuyi Wenga, Alexandra Miniatia, Dimitrios Kalogeromitrosd. Volume 1822, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 21–33 Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular Basis of Disease - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21185371
  3. Website “Allergy UK” – Allergy to Domestic Pets https://www.allergyuk.org/allergy-to-domestic-pets/allergy-to-domestic-pets
  4. Website “Allergy UK” - https://www.allergyuk.org/allergy-to-domestic-pets/allergy-to-domestic-pets
  5. Website “Live Science” - http://www.livescience.com/36578-cat-worse-dogs-allergies-pets.html
  6. Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin. Beetz A, Uvnäs-Moberg K, Julius H, Kotrschal K, Frontiers in Psychology. 2012;3:234. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/
  7. Website “Health Line” -  Pet Therapy. http://www.healthline.com/health/pet-therapy
  8. The Benefit of Pets and Animal-Assisted Therapy to the Health of Older Individuals. Cherniack EP, Cherniack AR. Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research. 2014;2014:623203. doi:10.1155/2014/623203. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248608/
  9. Website “Stylist” – Relax; science says watching cat videos at work is actually good for you. http://www.stylist.co.uk/life/great-news-watching-cat-videos-at-work-is-actually-good-for-your-concentration

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