Inhalant Allergy in Cats

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  • What is an inhalant allergy?

    Inhalant allergy (also known as atopy) is an allergic reaction caused by breathing in airborne particles such as pollens, dust, and moulds. Humans typically react to inhaled allergies by sneezing and wheezing, however, cats are more likely to develop skin problems. Allergies are the result of the cat’s immune system reacting to a usually harmless substance (food, chemical, pollen etc), and mounting a response.

    Inhalant allergy is the third most common type of allergy to affect cats and the age of onset is between 1-3 years.

    Clinical signs

    Symptoms can be seasonal or nonseasonal depending on the allergen, they often begin in young cats, worsening with age.

    • Miliary dermatitis (red and crusty rash on the head, neck, and back)
    • Eosinophilic granuloma complex
    • Head, ear and neck pruritus (intense itching)
    • Facial crusty, scabby lesions
    • Symmetrical alopecia (hair loss)
    • In some cases, your cat may bite and chew the itchy skin enough to cause damage to the skin, which leads to a secondary bacterial infection


    The veterinarian will obtain a complete medical history from you and perform a physical examination. He will want to rule out other possible conditions such as mange, flea allergy, contact dermatitis, ringworm and food allergy.

    • Skin scrapings and fungal cultures: To rule out some of the conditions above.
    • Intradermal skin test: A small amount of allergen is injected through the skin, which is then observed to determine if elicit an allergic reaction. Certain medications such as antihistamines may interfere with results.
    • Blood test: This tests for antibodies to specific antigens in the blood.


    • Implement strategies to avoid exposure where possible
    • Topical corticosteroid creams to relieve discomfort
    • Oral Prednisolone or Cyclosporin to decrease the cat’s immune response
    • Omega 3/6 fatty acids at 100 mg per kilo once a day or switch to commercial cat food that is high in essential fatty acids.
    • Oatmeal shampoos to soothe the skin
    • Antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infection
    • Hyposensitisation (allergy shots/allergy desensitization) which involves injecting gradually greater amounts of the allergen in question in the hope that it will re-programme the immune system so it’s not hypersensitive to the antigen, it can take more than 6 months to see effects


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio