Loratadine for Cats

Loratadine, best known by the brand name Claritin, is a second generation human antihistamine that can be useful in treating some feline allergy symptoms. Let’s look at how loratadine can help an allergic cat, what the medication’s common side effects are, and under what circumstances you might not want to give the medication to your cat.

How Loratadine May Help an Allergic Cat

As an antihistamine, loratadine combats allergic symptoms caused by the chemical histamine, which your cat’s immune system creates in response to a threat it perceives from an allergen. Common feline allergens include flea saliva, house dust mites and common food ingredients, and typical allergy symptoms can include irritated skin, itching or swelling. In more severe allergic reactions, hives may appear on your cat’s skin, and in extreme instances, she may go into anaphylactic shock, which can cause her to stop breathing and can be fatal if left untreated.

Antihistamines are typically classified as either first- or second-generation. First-generation antihistamines provide symptom relief, but they also typically cause drowsiness. Second-generation medications, on the other hand, relieve symptoms without the typical drowsiness. Another benefit of loratadine is that it offers a single-day dosing option, which may be more convenient for cat owners whose pets are reluctant to take pills.

Loratadine is prescribed primarily to treat itchy skin. It can help relieve symptoms in the following feline allergy situations:

  • blood transfusion reactions
  • insect bites and stings
  • snake bites 
  • vaccination reactions

Tips for Successfully Using Loratadine

Loratadine is available in tablet or syrup form. Do not administer the syrup form to your cat because it contains propylene glycol, which is toxic to cats.

Be sure to administer the antihistamine-only form of loratadine to your cat. Combination medications for humans that include a decongestant may be harmful to your cat’s health.

If you’re using loratadine to minimize allergic effects of a vaccination, you will likely see the best results if you administer the medication to your cat prior to her receiving the vaccination.

If you’re using loratadine to treat itchy feline skin, you may see better results if you combine the antihistamine with fatty acid supplements.

Common Feline Side Effects of Loratadine

As a second-generation antihistamine, loratadine causes fewer side effects than the traditional antihistamines, but there are still a few side effects that cat owners need to know. First, loratadine can cause drowsiness if it is given in combination with the antifungal medication ketoconazole or the antibiotic erythromycin.

If your cat develops drowsiness while taking loratadine without being on either of these medications, contact your veterinarian’s office because she may have an underlying liver or kidney problem. Cats with liver or kidney problems need to have their loratadine dosages adjusted from a normal feline dose.

Situations in Which Loratadine Use Is Not Recommended

Although loratadine causes fewer problems for cats than first-generation antihistamines, it is still not recommended for use in all animals. For example, loratadine’s effects on pregnant and nursing females is not fully established, so administering the drug to expectant or lactating females is not advised.

Loratadine will have an impact on allergy skin test results. If your cat requires skin tests, discuss a medication schedule with your veterinarian so you will know when to discontinue loratadine before the test and when you can resume the medication afterward.