Atopic Dermatitis in Cats

Atopic dermatitis is the name used to describe skin conditions caused by allergens. Although the allergens differ, the symptoms of atopic dermatitis are similar. Cats develop dermatitis if the skin is hypersensitive to allergens present in the environment. Atopy is the immune system's reaction to allergens that come in contact with the cat's skin or allergens inhaled from the environment. Pets are often genetically predisposed to certain allergies and may develop dermatitis as early as one year of age.

Types of Allergens Include:

  • Plants
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Disinfectants
  • Deodorizers

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis

Cats suffering from atopic dermatitis develop skin rash or redness. Inflammation of the ears is also related to atopy. In addition, the cat will frequently paw her face or rub it against a surface due to the itchiness. Some pets will also have skin lesions after excessively scratching affected sites. Cats suffering from inhaled allergies often exhibit a runny nose. The symptoms of atopic dermatitis may appear seasonally or when pollen levels are high. However, the allergy can become chronic if not controlled or treated with medication.

Diagnosis of Atopic Dermatitis

The vet will perform a thorough physical examination to evaluate the clinical symptoms present. After consideration of the cat's medical history, the vet will perform a skin scraping test to rule out other skin conditions such as mange. An intradermal blood test is then conducted to check the immune system response to certain allergens. Other diagnostic tests performed include fungal culture tests and blood tests to detect the presence of antibodies.

Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis

In order to treat atopic dermatitis, the vet will work along with the pet owner to eliminate suspected allergens from the cat's environment. Cats suffering from chronic dermatitis are given immunotherapy shots to reduce hypersensitivity towards common allergens. The injections are administered as a series of shots and pet owners have to administer the scheduled injections on time. Other treatment options include antihistamine medication and antibiotic drugs to treat secondary bacterial infection that develops due to excessive itching. The vet may also prescribe certain solutions that contain hydrocortisone to soothe inflammation and itching. However, pet owners should ensure that the cat doesn't lick the medication after application.

Commercially Available Allergy Treatments Include:

  • Oatmeal and Aloe Vera Conditioner
  • Dermagard Hydrocortisone Medicated Spray
  • Excel Hydrocortisone Shampoo
  • Panalog

Other Treatment Options

Recent studies have established the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acid supplements to the cat's diet. Omega 3 fatty acids not only improve cat skin and fur but also reduce the immune system's reaction to certain allergens. The supplements should be administered for a few weeks to determine response to treatment. Although it may be effective in some pets, others may not benefit from supplementation and may require other medicines for a long term solution. Corticosteroid medication effectively reduces inflammation. However, the side effects associated with prolonged corticosteroid therapy are severe. Due to this, pet owners should identify allergens in the cat's surroundings and take preventive measures to avoid future allergic reactions.

It's best to keep cat bedding clean and disinfect the surroundings with pet friendly solutions. Routine grooming and flea control measures are also beneficial.