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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Allergic Vet?

Here's an interesting and excellent question...

My name is Jennifer. I am a student at West Valley College in Saratoga California. My assignment is to write a paper on a dream career or mine. I picked becoming a veterinarian, and found your site. My question is, Will having my allergies to certain animals (dogs, cats) affect me being a veterinarian? It would be greatly appriciated if you could get back to me Asap. Thank you so much. 

Jennifer, this is more common than you might think. As you mention, allergies tend to be to specific animals and not to all animals.  And there are ways around this problem.  If you have been working with an allergist, talk to him or her about desensitization medications or other ways you can medically handle the allergy.  In some cases regular antihistamines will control your disorder.  Allergy specialists routinely deal with similar situations and would be best suited to help you.

If your allergy is too strong for antihistamines but not problematic enough to see an allergist, you can choose not to work on certain species.  One of the great things about veterinary medicine is the great variety of things you can do with your training.  If you're allergic to dogs and cats, you can choose to limit your practice to horses or other livestock.  You can also choose to go into pathology or public health medicine where you're not actually working with patients. 

Sometimes your allergy will desensitize on its own.  I used to have a fairly strong allergy to cats until I got one of my own when I was in my early 20s.  Now I only have to worry about it if my hayfever is acting up and I touch my eyes after handling a cat.  My allergy is much less severe than it used to be.  However, sometimes the opposite happens.  My associate developed a severe allergy to rabbits as she got older.  It's bad enough that we can't have one stay in the hospital when she is working.  We see few enough rabbits that she simply doesn't see them, we put them in the farthest exam room when I see them, and if one needs to have surgery we schedule it on a day she is not there.

So don't give up on your dream if that's what you really want to do.  There are certainly ways to be a vet and deal with any allergies.


  1. I too am allergic to cats - yet i own six cats, have worked as a small animal vet for 30 years and run a boarding cattery... if it got really bad I took antihistamines, but not during the four pregnancies when it was sometimes a pain!!! However, my allergy is only a problem if I get cat hair in my eyes or up my nose... and i carry eye drops to flush it all away - even a running tap helps if I am desperate. If it was more life threatening - like your rabbit allergy vet - already, I would really advise you to seek expert advice !

  2. So if I'm allergic to cats can I just choose to work with dogs if I become a veterinarian?

  3. Unfortunately not, Hannah. There are cat-only practices, but no dog-only practices. If you go into small animal practice you'll be expected to see both kinds of pets.

  4. I am very allergic to cats, dogs, birds, AND rodents. But I love animals so much and vet has always been my dream. So I'm gonna try to work towards it anyways :-)


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