Allergic Contact Dermatitis in Cats

Allergic contact dermatitis in cats refers to a highly specific allergic reaction afflicting a small number of cats around the world. Often confused with irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis is a negative reaction to specific molecules in the atmosphere. It may be caused by a wide variety of potential allergens, and determining the source of the reaction may be difficult or impossible. Cats suffering from contact dermatitis of one type or another may be treated with a combination of environmental changes and allergy medications.

Difference from between Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Both varieties of contact dermatitis present analogous symptoms and are caused by similar processes. However, irritant contact dermatitis occurs when your cat has been exposed to toxic or damaging chemicals in the environment, including some plant oils, salt and other abrasive chemicals. Allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, is a disease and an allergic reaction. Pets suffering from allergic contact dermatitis have negative reactions to compounds in the atmosphere that are otherwise neutral.

Allergic contact dermatitis does not typically occur in cats younger than 2 years of age, as multiple exposures to an offending allergen are necessary before the negative reaction develops.

Symptoms of Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Cats suffering from allergic contact dermatitis may develop red, irritated skin. In particularly exposed areas, like the paws, face and stomach, your cat may develop blisters and open sores. These are the primary symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis, although their severity may fluctuate depending upon the time of year and particularly upon the home environment.

If your cat displays these symptoms, have him examined by a veterinarian for allergic contact dermatitis. Diagnosis may be a difficult process, but it typically involves a full physical examination and allergen elimination tests. In these tests, your veterinarian will attempt to isolate and remove potential allergens one at a time in order to determine which one(s) your pet is allergic to.

Some of the most common offending allergens in allergic contact dermatitis sufferers are:

  • Carpet
  • Fabrics
  • Metals
  • Chemical cleaners
  • Ointments and medicines

Treating Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Like other allergies, it is not possible to cure your cat of allergic contact dermatitis. However, a combination of methods may be helpful in controlling his symptoms. The most important factor in reducing the symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis is your pet's environment. Once you and your vet have determined the source of your cat's allergy, work to remove those allergens from your home environment. Air purifiers and hypoallergenic materials may be helpful, although for the best results you may have to remove all offending materials completely.

Additionally, traditional skin allergy medications may be helpful in controlling your pet's symptoms. Medicated shampoos, biotin supplements and antihistamine treatment programs may be appropriate for your pet. Consult with a veterinarian to determine which of these methods may be most effective in your situation.

Allergic contact dermatitis is an incurable disease, but it is manageable. If you discover that your pet suffers from allergic contact dermatitis, work with your veterinary office and pet stores to adjust your home environment to best suit your pet's condition. With your help, he can live a happy and irritation-free life.