Can You Have a Ferret Allergy?
The ferret (or Mustela putorius furo) is the domesticated form of a mammal closely related to minks. It is one of the most common furred pets in America.
Like any other furred pets, ferrets can trigger allergies in some people. Various studies have reported the cases of ferret allergy over the past years. It is likely that an allergy to ferret affects many people, just like allergies to dogs and cats.
Allergic reactions to ferrets often lead to the development of allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and asthma. Besides, getting into a direct contact with a ferret may cause itchy skin, urticaria, and other types of rashes.
How to Diagnose an Allergy to Ferrets?
In order to diagnose an allergy, a patient has to perform allergy testing. This usually involves exposure to the extract of the suspected allergen.
When it comes to a ferret allergy, there are no commercial extracts of ferret allergen available yet. However, an allergist can perform a skin test using a sample of ferret hair or fur from the patient’s pet. It is also possible to make a homemade extract based on the pet’s hair, which can be then used for skin testing.
Your doctor can also suggest using commercial RAST panels that test for ferret allergy.
What Causes a Ferret Allergy?
The exact cause of the development of ferret allergies is not clear yet. According to experts, more research is needed to understand the nature of allergic reactions to ferrets.
Based on the existing studies, allergenic proteins related to ferrets are found in their hair, urine, feces, as well as bedding material. The most potent concentration of allergens was found in urine of the male ferrets.
An allergy to ferret can be triggered by numerous proteins, while the most common one is a blood protein known as albumin. This protein is mostly present in the ferret’s blood, as well as in the urine, saliva, fur, and feces.
Who Is at Risk for a Ferret Allergy?
People allergic to cats, especially to cat albumin, were found to be more susceptible to a ferret allergy. However, anyone with a history of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or asthma can develop an allergic reaction, if exposed to this animal.
How Do You Treat a Ferret Allergy?
If you have a ferret allergy, the best and only way to prevent the reactions is to avoid exposure to ferrets and not to keep them indoors. There are certain allergy drugs that can help to relieve the symptoms, but there is no way to cure the allergy.
While it is theoretically possible to desensitize a person to ferrets through allergy shots, there are no reports of immunotherapy’s effectiveness against ferret allergies yet. Some experts believe that using allergy shots with cat albumin extracts may help to reduce a ferret allergy, since cat allergens and ferret allergens are known to be cross-reactive.
If you have a ferret in your family, you may not want to get rid of your pet. In this case, you can take certain avoidance measures to reduce the symptoms. The avoidance measures for people with ferret allergy are similar to those required for cat allergy sufferers.