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Cat Skin Allergies

Cat Skin Allergies

Much like dogs, cats can also suffer from itchy and uncomfortable skin issues as a result of allergies. Our Dallas vets are here to discuss what this looks like and how to help.

Types of Allergies in Cats

If your cat is suffering from an allergy it means that their immune system is overreacting or is hypersensitive to a particular substance. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some common allergens in humans include food, pollen, dander, and mold.

An allergic reaction to a substance can lead to 3 general types of symptoms:

  • Skin -  Itching of the skin, either in a specific spot or more generalized all over your cat's body.
  • Respiratory - Coughing, sneezing, and wheezing and other respiratory issues including discharge from the nose or eyes.
  • Gastrointestinal - The third type involves the digestive system and can result in vomiting, flatulence, and/or diarrhea.

These reactions are all the result of different types of allergens such as parasites that live in or on your cat's body, allergens that cause a reaction when they come in contact with the skin, ones that are ingested, and allergens that are inhaled. 

We are here to talk about the different causes of skin allergies in cats, the associated symptoms and how they can be treated.

Causes of Skin Allergies in Cats & How They Are Treated

When it comes to skin allergies, the allergen causing the condition will either be parasites, food allergies, or environmental allergies.

Contact Allergies

While not particularly common, contact allergies can occur in some cats leading to patches of irritated skin wherever the allergen has come in direct contact with the cat's body. Common contact allergens include flea collars, shampoos, and various materials that makeup bedding, etc. It can be super difficult to find the exact cause of your cats allergies, but it is worth the effort. once the allergen is identified, simply removing it from your cat's environment can clear up the issue.


Contrary to popular belief, not all cats will scratch wildly when bitten by a flea. In many cases, a flea bite is just a minor irritation. But if your cat is allergic to the proteins or antigens in flea saliva just a single bite could lead to a severe reaction resulting in intense itching. In many cases this will cause your cat to scratch relentlessly or chew their skin, removing large amounts of hair in the process. If your cat is allergic to flea bites you may also notice open sores or scabs on the skin, particularly at the base of the tail. These sores can result in secondary bacterial skin infections. 

The best way to treat this allergy is to keep fleas well away from your pet. If your pet has fleas, speak to your vet about various flea control products and how to rid your cat of fleas. Corticosteroids (cortisone or steroids) can be prescribed by your vet to help block the allergic reaction and give your cat immediate relief from itchiness. Antibiotics may be required if your cat has a secondary skin infection due to scratching.

Food Allergies in Cats

Food allergies in cats are caused by an immune reaction to an ingredient or an additive in their food. Common food allergies for cats include chicken, turkey, and beef. Some vegetable proteins found in commercially produced cat foods may be problematic for some cats including corn and wheat, and for other cats, food additives and preservatives can lead to an allergic response. Food allergies can lead to itchy skin, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress.

If your vet suspects that your cat has food allergies, they are likely to suggest an elimination or hypoallergenic diet. These types of diets involve giving your pet limited ingredients that they have never eaten before such as rabbit or venison and eliminating their regular food completely. To be effective these diets must be adhered to strictly. No cat treats (unless approved as part of the diet), and no sneaking any table scraps. Elimination diets must be adhered to for between 9-12 weeks in order to give your cat's body time to eliminate all traces of the problematic ingredient and start the recovery process.

Inhalant & Atopy Allergies

Inhalant and atopy allergies are those related to substances found in the environment such as ragweed, pollen, mold, dust mites and pollutants such as cigarette smoke. In cats, reactions to these allergens can include severe itching across the body. It is common for cats with these allergies to be allergic to more than one substance so it can take patience to pinpoint the precise cause. While in many cases these allergies are seasonal much like hayfever in people, in other cases, itching may be present year-round.

Treatment for these allergies largely depends on the severity of the allergy and whether it is seasonal. A hypoallergenic diet can be helpful in relieving symptoms and treatments can include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Sprays and shampoos to improve the health of the skin
  • Corticosteroids (prednisone)
  • Essential fatty acids/fish oils
  • Antigen injections/allergy shots
  • Immunosuppressive drug therapy

Treating Cats with Skin Allergies

It's important to note that many of the treatments for skin allergies in cats take time to take effect and are not appropriate for sudden flare-ups. Your vet will provide you with treatments for acute symptoms and for the long-term management of the condition.

While treatment can help to control and relieve your cat's symptoms, only preventing your cat from coming in contact with the allergen will cure the problem. This means that while your cat may live symptom-free for long periods of time, symptoms will likely recur periodically. Your vet will be able to help you and your cat deal with allergic reactions whenever they appear.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is itchy all the time or showing signs of uncomfortable skin conditions, contact our Dallas vets today to book an examination for your kitty.

New Patients Welcome, New Hope Animal Hospital, Dallas

New Patients Welcome

New Hope Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Dallas companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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