If your cat is itchy, he could have an allergy to something in his environment. Molds, pollen and dust mites are common allergens, but can cats be allergic to dogs? While it’s not something you hear about very often, it’s possible.
Can Cats Be Allergic to Dogs?
Although veterinarians say it’s not well-documented or very common, cats can be allergic to dogs. “When we perform intradermal allergy testing in cats, ‘dog epithelia’ is one of the allergens that we test cats for out of a panel of about 60 environmental allergens, including pollens, molds and house dust mites,” says Dr. Elizabeth Falk, a board-certified veterinary dermatologist at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford, Connecticut. “We can include that in the cat's allergy vaccine.”
Generally speaking, cat allergies are not very well-studied, so knowing whether certain dog breeds are more allergenic than others is tough. It’s not much of a stretch, however, to suspect that certain breeds can potentially present more of a risk, veterinarians say.
“In general, there seems to be significant breed-related variability in ‘allergenicity’ of dogs, whereas most cat-allergic people are allergic to all cats, regardless of breed. This is likely because people are allergic to different dog allergens (for example, dog saliva, Can f 1, and dog albumin, among others), whereas the major cat allergen, Fel d 1, is shared across all cat breeds,” says Dr. Falk.
There are no specific studies identifying what particular dog allergens cats are allergic to, but, according to Dr. Falk, it is reasonable to suspect that, similar to people, there will be breed-related variability.
While it may not yet be possible to pinpoint which specific breeds will cause a cat’s allergic reaction, dogs more prone to shedding could, theoretically, spread more allergens, suggests Dr. Susan Jeffrey, a veterinarian at Truesdell Animal Care Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. “These include both long- and short-haired dogs. I'd think the dogs that don't typically shed would be less allergenic to cats.”
Keeping Your Allergic Cat Happy and Healthy
There is no way to prevent the onset of allergies, but treatment and management is available if they do develop, says Dr. Falk. “We have two main treatment approaches: managing their symptoms with medications and/or building their tolerance to their allergens with immunotherapy (an allergy vaccine).”
“The goal of the vaccine is to decrease or eliminate altogether the need for medications. It is effective in about 70 percent of patients,” says Dr. Falk. “Trying to keep the animals separate and limit exposure might be possible, but making the cat less allergic to the dog with an allergy vaccine is likely a good idea.”
Veterinarians say allergies are often a combination of environmental conditions and genetics. While you can’t control your cat’s DNA, there are things you can do to change his environment. For example, owners can “clean often to try to keep the hair to a minimum. Bathing a dog often is also helpful, as this will help keep the allergens to a minimum,” says Dr. Jeffrey.
Correct amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, found largely in fish oils, may also play a role in good skin health, veterinarians say.
How to Determine If Your Cat Is Allergic to Dogs
If your cat is allergic to something, it will be pretty noticeable. The most prevalent clinical sign of allergies in pets is itching, says Dr. Jeffrey. “Allergic animals will scratch their skin until they lose fur and cause trauma to the skin.”
This may lead to overgrowth of yeast and bacteria, resulting in an infection, she says. “These skin infections can look like crusts on the skin, excoriations, scales, papules, pustules (bumps on the skin) as well as generally pink/red skin.”
You may also notice that your cat is pulling out his hair, has runny eyes, is sneezing or has red plaques associated with eosinophilic granuloma complex, says Dr. Falk.
To be certain that what you’re seeing in your cat is an allergic reaction to your dog and not an allergy to something else, “Owners can pursue blood testing and/or skin testing like that done for humans,” says Dr. Jeffrey.
While not a common occurrence, cats can be allergic to dogs. If you suspect your cat is allergic to your dog or other allergens, take him to the veterinarian for diagnosis and, if necessary, allergy testing. There’s not much you can do to prevent the onset of allergies, but you can work with your veterinarian to treat them and keep your cat as symptom-free as possible.
By: Paula Fitzsimmons
Featured Image: iStock.com/chendongshan