Feline Skin Allergies


Feline skin allergies (also called atopy) are usually due to substances in the air and your cat's environment.

Allergies tend to appear during certain times of the year when specific types of allergens are present.

Weed Pollen – Late summer and fall
Tree Pollen – March and April
Grass Pollen – May, June, July

Other common causes of feline skin allergies include mold, dust, feathers and plants.

Where your cat has an allergic reaction can be a clue as to the cause. If the allergy is at the mouth and you had just purchased a new plastic cat dish for example, this could be the cause. Redness around a flea collar could be caused by the collar itself.

Many chemicals can cause your cat to have an allergic reaction. This usually occurs in areas that are not covered by hair. Common causes include soap, shampoo, wool, leather, plastic/rubber cat dishes, insecticide, paint, carpet, wood preservative, neomycin (many skin medicines).

Immediately bring your cat to a Veterinarian or Emergency Center if your cat’s face is swollen or looks puffy. This could be a sign of a severe allergic reaction that needs immediate treatment

Symptoms of Feline Skin Allergies

Cats with allergies are likely to have itchy skin as a symptom and less likely to have a runny nose and watery eyes. Your cat will try and itch herself by licking her paws (which causes brown spots) or rub her face against the floor or carpet. Scratching and itching makes the skin raw and can cause lesions and infections such as ear infections.

Feline Skin Allergies Testing and Diagnosis

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between skin allergies caused by fleas and allergy caused by something in your cat’s environment. Similar to people, your veterinarian may give your cat a skin test (IST) where different causes of allergy are placed on the skin. If your cat reacts to a small amount, it means she is allergic. Some veterinarians may opt to do a blood test called ELISA.

Treatment of Cat with Feline Skin Allergies

Treatment of allergies can be difficult if a common substance causes them. If this is the case, the first step is to make your cat more comfortable by treating any skin irritation (called Seborrhea and Pyoderma).

Antihistamine and Cat Skin Allergies

Many vets will prescribe an antihistamine (hydrocortisone or Pramoxine) to help with the itching. Popular types of antihistamine include Dipehnhydramine, hydroxyzine (Atarax), clemastine (Tavist) and cetirizine (Zyrtec). In cats antihistamines can be very effective and have few side effects. Even drowsiness tends to disappear in 2 to 3 days.

Dietary Supplements and Fatty Acids for Cat Skin Allergies

Introducing fatty acids into your cat's diet could have a beneficial effect on your cat's skin. Fats such as sunflower oil, safflower oil and eicosapentanoic acid (fish oil) helps the skin form barrier which reduces water loss. This approach has been proven successful in cats. One product made for cat skin that uses fatty acids as the core ingredient is DermCaps. Give the treatment several weeks to take effect.

Prescription Medications - Glucorticoids for Feline Skin Allergy

A class of drugs called glucocorticoids are also prescribed for feline skin allergy symptoms such as itch. A type of glucocorticoids called prednisolone is often used to help with seasonal allergy and flea allergy.

Allergy Shots for Cats

If your cat does not do well on the above, then a series of allergy shots can be used to reduce sensitivity to the allergens. This course of treatment takes as few as 9 and as many as 12 months. Studies show that approximately 20% of cats improve dramatically and another 60% show some level of progress, usually in conjunction with some other type of medication. 20% of cats do not benefit from this therapy.

Shampoo Therapy for Cat Skin

Different types of shampoos have been formulated for different cat skin conditions and diseases. In the case of allergy you might want to try a colloidal oatmeal shampoo. This type of shampoo hydrates the skin. Use the shampoo for a period of 2 to 14 days. Massage the shampoo onto your cat and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse for 5 to 10 minutes to remove the shampoo.

Natural Remedies for Cat Skin

You can also try a natural skin remedy if your cat frequently suffers from skin irritation or allergy. PetAlive Wound Dr. is all natural and made specifically for this purpose. Consult with your veterinarian so that he or she can track progress.


Greek, Jean, DVM, ACIDM; New Hope Animal Hospital “Atopic Disease and Allergy”

Beale, Karin M. DVM, Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists – “Atopic Dermatitis: Clinical Signs and Diagnosis”

Lloyd, Professor David, Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Campus: “Diagnosis &

Osborn, Sarah Colombini DVM, Southwest Veterinary College, Houston: “Optimal use of Hypoallergenic Diets”

Ihrke, VMD, Professor of Dermatology, School of Veterinary Meicine, University of California: “Flea Allergy Dermatitis”

Treatment of Pruitus
R.S. Mueller
Department of Clinical Sciences Coll. of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA


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