Skin allergies in cats

Managing Allergies in Cats 

Cats can be allergic to fleas, storage mites, dust mites, pollens, plants, and molds. The following is a list of methods to treat allergies. 

Flea Control
All allergic cats (and all other pets in the household) should be on flea preventative all year round if there is an allergic pet in the household.  Most allergic cats are also allergic to fleas, and some cats are so sensitive to fleas that one bite can cause serious problems and extensive skin damage. Not being able to find fleas on your cat does not necessarily mean that they are not present.  Itchy cats, by virtue of their constant obsessive grooming, will remove most fleas on their own.  In an apartment situation, fleas can travel under doors from communal hallways.  The four most effective flea control products
are the spot on medications Frontline, Advantage, Activyl and Revolution. Other flea control products, often over the counter, do not provide adequate control for allergic animals and may have some serious side effects. Avoid Hartz products and other generic forms of spot on flea control that contain permethrins, because not only are they ineffective, but they have caused seizures and death in cats. Make sure you apply spot on flea products every 4 weeks, because applying the dose late may allow your cat to become susceptible to fleas.  Mark the applications down on your calendar so that you don’t forget.  Please note that for flea preventative to be effective, all animals in the household must be on it. 

The following is further recommendations for flea control:

We carry Activyl and Revolution:

Controlling Exposure to Environmental Allergens

Dust Mites 

Dust mites are common in the environment and feed on human and animal dander.  They are commonly found in beds, mattresses, carpets, sofas, and pet bedding.  The following is recommended to control dust mite exposure:

•Wash bedding (human and pet) in HOT water.  Dry on full heat for at least 20 minutes.
•Avoid feather and wool bedding, use allergen-proof bed covers, and encase box springs in vinyl or plastic covers.
•Minimize clutter where dust can collect.
•Change the furnace and air conditioning filters regularly and if possible, use filters made for allergen control.
•Vacuum and dust regularly, using a vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or a double-layered micro filter bag.
•Use a damp or oiled rag to dust rather than dry dusting, which can stir up mite particles.

Storage Mites

Storage mites thrive in humid environments. They can be found in dry food items, such as flour, grains, dried fruits and cereal, and may also occur in dry dog and cat food.  Pets exposed to storage mites through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin may develop an allergy to them.  The following may help with storage mite control:
•Do not stockpile food; purchase only what is needed to maintain a 30-day supply.
•Store pet foods in airtight containers in a cool, dry environment.
•Divide the bag of pet food into one-week portions and place the food in freezer safe storage containers if you do stockpile it.  Keep the containers of food in the freezer until needed and make sure to allow the food to defrost before feeding it.
•Wash food storage containers and pet food bowls frequently with detergent and HOT water and dry them completely before refilling them with food.

Pollen Allergens 

Pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds can be carried great distances by air currents.  Pollen exposure most often occurs through inhalation of airborne particles and/or absorption through the skin.  The following will help to minimize exposure:
•Vacuum and dust regularly.
•Use air conditioning instead of opening the windows and/or consider an air purifier, especially when the pollen count is high.
•Dry bedding in the dryer instead of hanging it outside.


Indoor mold levels are commonly elevated when indoor air quality is poor (i.e., the house is closed off to fresh, outside air).  Common locations for mold growth include bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, and closets.  Specific equipment can also be contaminated; these include cool mist vaporizers, furnace humidifiers, air conditioners, and swamp coolers. 

Indoor mold control involves general cleanliness, reducing excessive indoor moisture (relative humidity less than 50%), and identification and remediation of known mold sources.

Antihistamines may provide some relief to allergic animals. Because individuals respond differently to each antihistamine, try a 1 to 2 week course of medication to find one that works the best.  Make sure that the product you buy at the store contains only the ingredient that is needed. Some brand names may appear on products with additional (and sometimes toxic) active ingredients. Culprits include “cold,” “flu,” “sinus,” and “pain relief” preparations, which often include Tylenol.  If you are unsure about the contents of a medication, double check with the pharmacist before purchasing it.  The following is a list of over the counter antihistamines: 

Hypoallergenic Diet Trial
Although food allergies are less common, a hypoallergenic diet trial can be performed.  A restricted hypoallergenic diet contains a single protein not previously fed to the patient.  Fish, seafood, lamb, and beef should be avoided.  Poultry and rabbit are easier for cats to digest.  No other foods may be given during the trial.  The restricted hypoallergenic diet should be fed for 10 weeks.  If no improvement is noticed it may be discontinued.  You must be selective when purchasing a hypoallergenic diet.  Many of the diets at pet stores advertised as hypoallergenic diets or diets for healthy skin are not adequate.  Read the label to determine what is in the diet.  Canned foods are preferable over dry due to the lower carbohydrate content.  Home cooked diets are the gold standard.  The following site describes how to make your own cat food.  You will need to add taurine if you prepare the food at home.

Fatty Acids
Omega three fatty acids control itching, while omega six fatty acids restore natural barrier functions of the skin.  Fatty acids should be administered orally for 6 to 8 weeks to determine if the are effective. The dose is 180mg of EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) per 10 LBS orally or on food once daily.


Prednisolone usually works very well for allergies, but can rarely cause side effects such as changes in behavior, a lowered immune system, and diabetes.  Steroids should be used cautiously in cats with heart issues and can be used long-term, but should be decreased to the lowest dose possible, due to side effects.  You can order prednisolone through our online pharmacy by using the following link:

Allergy Testing
Allergy testing can identify what your pet is allergic to: fleas, storage mites, dust mites, plants, pollens, etc.  The test involves drawing blood and sending it off to the lab but can be somewhat expensive (usually at least $300).  Once the allergens are identified, hyposensitization injections formulated by the lab can be initiated.  Allergy injections must be used cautiously because anaphylactic reactions rarely do occur. 


For complicated cases that are not resolving, consider a board certified dermatologist.  The following is a list of dermatologists in our area.

Dr. Alan Mundell

Animal Dermatology Service

Location: Edmonds, WA 

Phone #: 425-771-4600



Dr. DD Duclos

Animal Skin & Allergy Clinic
Location: Lynnwood, WA
Phone #: 425-742-0342



Dr. Eva Ganz


Location: Renton, WA 98057

Phone #: 626-577-8181


Dr. Mel Milosevic

Dermatology Center for Animals

Location: Seattle, WA

Phone #: 206-508-5500