There are many people around the world who are allergic to house pets such as cats and dogs. Like many of these people, I have also suffered from allergies all my life to cats but interestingly, not dogs.
About 3 weeks ago, I was talking with my wife and I said you know what babe, what if it wasn’t the actual pet hair (fur) and dander that people like me are allergic too? What if for example, cats who are always licking their fur are creating the perfect environment for molds (fungi) to land on and grow are really the culprit?
Well, sure enough, this week while I was researching for an article on how molds and their mycotoxins affect our pets, I recently came across some studies that show house pets can and often do carry various molds (fungi) and they release these molds into their indoor environments which can adversely affect human health. In fact, pet hair and dead skin flakes (dander) are a great source of nutrition for mold,
In fact, pet hair and dead skin flakes (dander) are a great source of nutrition for mold.
I will share with you research below from studies done over the last couple decades that show both cats and dogs often carry various toxic molds in their hair with some studies finding molds in 100% of cat hair and 80% of dog hair. This may be the moldy smoking gun that is causing your pet allergies and these facts I’m sharing with you should not be dismissed if you want to protect your health.
This news should not be surprising to some of you.
After all, there are literally millions of people around the globe who erroneously think they are allergic to pollen when in reality they are allergic (having an immune reaction) to molds spores in the outdoor air. Ther are also probably just as many people who think they are allergic to grass when the facts are they are most likely allergic to the molds that land and live in grass.
For example, The Asthma Center says grasses are tied to outdoor mold spores in a very specific way. Many people think that the symptoms they experience when mowing their lawns are related to a grass pollen allergy. In reality, the reaction is due to exposure to mold spores released into the air during the mowing as well as other grass antigens.”
Just imagine how many people think they are allergic to grass pollen when in reality it may actually be due to the mold spores on the grass. So this brings up the question some of us need to ask in regards to our pet allergies. Are our allergies caused by pet hair and or dander or is it the result of pets carrying mold spores on their hair?
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America New England Chapter says that it is common for people to develop an allergy to one or more types of mold if they, or other family members, have a history of allergic responses to things such as pollen or animal dander.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America had said this about mold allergies;
“If you have an allergy that occurs over several seasons, you may be allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi. Molds live everywhere. Upsetting a mold source can send the spores into the air.
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies, such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion and dry, scaling skin. Outdoor molds may cause allergy symptoms in summer and fall (or year-round in some climates). Indoor molds may cause allergy symptoms year-round.
Mold spores get into your nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs and trigger asthma. A chemical released by allergy cells in the nose and or lungs causes the symptoms. Sometimes the reaction happens right away. Sometimes a mold allergy can cause delayed symptoms, leading to nasal congestion or worsening asthma over time. Symptoms often get worse in a damp or moldy room like a basement. This may mean you have a mold allergy.”
Now let’s get into the science of household pets carrying molds on their hair (fur).
In a 1996 study of stray cats in Iran, researchers examined the fungal flora of the hair coat of 100 stray cats in different districts of the city of Isfahan, Iran, were examined. Saprophytic fungi were isolated from all cats. Meaning 100% of the cats tested positive for various molds in their hair and skin. Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, Mucor and Cladosporium spp. were the most frequently isolated saprophytes.(1)
The fungal flora of the coat of 172 healthy pet cats was examined qualitatively in a 1991 study. Fungi were isolated from 136 (79%) of the 172 cats. Fifteen genera were isolated; 13 are commonly regarded as saprophytes, and 2 (Microsporum and Trichophyton) are commonly regarded as pathogens. Aspergillus, Alternaria, Penicillium, and Cladosporium spp were the most frequently isolated saprophytes. Dermatophytic fungi, including Microsporum gypseum (n = 1), M vanbreuseghemii (n = 1), and Trichophyton rubrum (n = 14), were recovered from 16 cats. Microsporum canis was not isolated from any cat during this study.(2)
Researchers in a 1996 study examined 944 dogs from Barcelona during a one year period to detect the fungal biota of the fur of dogs. They identified various molds/fungi in approximately 80% of the dog’s hair and skin. Species of Penicillium (% prevalence=89.5%), Alternaria (86.6%), Cladosporium (84.9%), Aspergillus (77.3%), Scopulariopsis (65.7%) and Chrysosporium (64.5%) were the most prevalent.(3)
In 2007, researchers from Korea analyzed pet dogs as a source of providing molds at houses. They performed fungal isolation was performed to the skin and hairs of 70 pet dogs at different houses and veterinary hospitals. A total of 44 fungal isolates were obtained from skin (27 isolates) and hairs (17 isolates) of the dogs investigated for the growth ability of 44 isolates at 37℃, 45% of the isolates were able to grow.
The researchers demonstrated in Korea that pet dogs carry diverse molds commonly present in indoor air. These results indicate that pet dogs can be served as a contamination source of generating fungal bioaerosol into indoor environment having a potentiality of affecting on human health.(4)
It is not just cats and dogs that carry molds in their hair. Horses and other animals have been found to be carriers of various molds (fungi).
For example, a 1998 study, researchers examined the fungal flora of the hair and underlying skin from 20 horses free of skin or ocular disease. Fungi were isolated from both the hair and the underlying skin of all 20 horses. Twenty-two genera regarded commonly as saprophytes were identified and an additional 2 fungi resembled the perfect state of the cutaneous pathogenic genera Microsporum and Trichophyton. Cladosporium spp, Penicillium spp, and Rhizopus spp were the most frequently isolated saprophytes. In general, similar fungi were isolated from the hair and underlying skin, and differences were not noted in isolates from the saddle and rump regions.(5)
Mold Safe Solutions Conclusion
If you are allergic to common household pets, it would be wise for you to not rule out the possibility that it is not the pet hair and or dander that you are allergic to, but the mold spores and mycotoxins that are attached to the same said pet hair and skin.
In the future, this will be common knowledge. Many people who needlessly take allergy medicines that just mask the symptoms will find relief knowing that treating their pets for mold and washing them often with the proper antimicrobial shampoos will be the answer to their pet allergy problems.
- Fungal flora of the hair coat of stray cats in Iran
- Fungal flora of the coat of pet cats
- Seasonal study of the fungal biota of the fur of dogs
- Molds Isolated from Pet Dogs
- Cutaneous fungal flora in twenty horses free of skin or ocular disease
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.