Can Dogs Be Allergic to Cats?

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Cats?

Many of us are familiar with the itchy, sneezy struggle of cat allergies. But can dogs be allergic to cats as well?

According to Banfield’s 2018 State of Pet Health Report, allergies in dogs are on the rise. In fact, over a 10-year period, environmental allergy cases in dogs increased by 30.7 percent. One of the common triggers for environmental allergies is pet dander — the dead skin cells that dogs and cats shed on a daily basis. 

In this article, we’ll explore the symptoms of cat allergies in dogs, plus how your veterinarian might diagnose this for sure. Allergies can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog, so we’ve also included some expert advice about what treatments your dog may be offered to soothe that itch.

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Cats?

“Yes, dogs can be allergic to cats,” says Dr. Laura Rodriguez Sandlin, veterinary spokesperson for SpiritDog Training. “They can also commonly be allergic to house dust, mold, pollen, dust mites, and other types of animal dander,” she adds. While a cat allergy may not be as prevalent as some of these other types, it does happen. 

Just like pet allergies in people, it’s the dander from your cat that most commonly causes an allergic reaction. A cat’s saliva and urine can also contain allergens. 

Now that we know that dogs can be allergic to cats — can dogs be allergic to cat litter, too? It’s unlikely that dogs are allergic to the cat litter itself, or allergic to cat poop, but the dander and urine in your cat’s litter box could trigger a reaction. 

The next question that may come to mind is, can dogs be allergic to cat food? Food allergies are pretty rare in dogs and are estimated to affect only 0.2 percent of them. For these dogs with food allergies, chicken, beef, corn, eggs, wheat, milk, and soy are common triggers. If your dog does have a food allergy, they may have a reaction if they eat cat food that contains these ingredients.      

When it comes to just how many dogs out there are allergic to cats, Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin suggests that it’s difficult to put a number on this, simply because we often don’t know which environmental allergens are triggering a reaction. While allergy testing in dogs is possible, it’s not only expensive, but also requires a significant commitment from pet parents.     

If a dog does have allergies, most pet parents start to see signs when their pup is between 6 months to 3 years old. “We often see allergies in Labrador and Golden Retrievers, West Highland Terriers, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Shih Tzus,  Bulldogs, and mixed breed dogs,” says Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin.   

Dog Allergic to Cat? Symptoms to Look For

Wondering how to tell if your dog is allergic to cats? Their symptoms will be pretty similar to any other type of allergy with an environmental trigger. Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin suggests looking for the following signs:

  • Itchiness: Also known as pruritus, this is the major symptom to watch out for. Areas with less fur, like your dog’s stomach and paws, may be itchier. Your dog might lick their feet, scratch more often than normal, have itchy ears, scoot their rear end on the ground, or shake their head.
  • Skin changes: Frequent scratching and licking can irritate your dog’s skin, so keep an eye out for red patches and dry areas.  
  • Secondary infections: Sometimes dogs with allergies can develop a secondary bacterial or yeast infection, which may cause them to smell strange. 
  • Respiratory issues: Some dogs may cough and sneeze, or have watery eyes and a running nose. 

These symptoms can indicate any type of allergy, so you may have to do a little detective work to figure out whether your dog really is allergic to your cat or if something else is the trigger. Paying attention to when and where your dog shows symptoms can help narrow things down.  

“The frequency of environmental allergies in dogs can vary depending on a wide range of factors, including things like your location and the time of year,” explains Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. “Some regions have very long allergy seasons, others, shorter ones.” If your dog’s symptoms coincide with seasonal variations like a high pollen count, or mold due to dampness, that’s a good clue that cats might not be the issue.  

“Of course, if your dog is kept indoors most of the time with the windows closed, allergy symptoms may be due to something in the house,” says Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. This could be your cat’s dander, dust, or even the cleaning products you use. 

Diagnosing Cat Allergies in Dogs

If you suspect your dog may be allergic to your cat, it’s best to speak to your veterinarian, who will examine your dog and may recommend allergy testing. 

“First, your veterinarian will likely check for external parasites and infections before assuming they’re suffering from allergies to a cat,” explains Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. They’ll look for things like fleas, Cheyletiella (a small skin parasite), mites, bacterial infections, and fungal infections (yeast or ringworm).  

If no evidence of these is found, the next step will be dog allergy testing. Your veterinarian may perform a blood allergy test, also known as serum testing. However, it’s important to note that “this is not the gold standard for accuracy, because the test results reflect exposure to the allergens rather than the allergy itself,” Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin explains. This means false positives can occur. 

Your veterinarian may also offer a skin allergy test, also known as intradermal allergy testing. “During this test, your dog will be sedated, the skin on the side of their body will be shaved, and small amounts of allergens are injected into their skin in a grid pattern,” Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin describes. Any reaction will be noted, and your veterinarian will interpret the results based on your dog’s medical history and exposure to specific allergens.  

At-home allergy test kits are available, but accuracy is low and many veterinarians don’t recommend these as an effective way to identify your dog’s allergies. 

Treatment for Dogs Allergic to Cats

Once your dog’s allergy tests are complete, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan. “During your dog’s treatment, relief might be rapid, or it may take a year or longer,” Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin says.  

Cat Allergy Medicine for Dogs

When prescribing allergy relief for dogs, your veterinarian is likely to recommend one or more of the following treatments: 

  • Antihistamines
  • Immunomodulators
  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy)
  • Corticosteroids

Antihistamines 

“Antihistamines may alleviate your dog’s symptoms, but often they aren’t that effective,” says Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. “They are worth a try, though.”   

Immunomodulators

Apoquel is an oral medication for allergic itch in dogs that is available as a tablet or chewable. “Apoquel also helps break the itch cycle, but it can be expensive, especially in larger dogs,” Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. 

Allergy shots

Allergy shots can help manage your dog’s allergies. While injectable steroids were traditionally used, it’s more likely your veterinarian will now recommend allergy shots like Cytopoint.    

“Cytopoint is a monthly injection that works very quickly to relieve itchiness,” explains Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. Research has shown Cytopoint (which is also an immunomodulator) is effective in around 88 percent of cases. “It can be expensive, and the cost increases with the size of the dog, but it is effective and very safe,” she adds. 

Your veterinarian may also recommend allergen-specific immunotherapy or ASIT injections. 

Corticosteroids

Dogs on immunotherapy often still need oral medications to help control their itchiness. “There are prescription medications, like corticosteroids, that can help, but long-term use should be avoided if possible, due to side effects,” Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin explains. 

Home Remedies for Dogs Allergic to Cats

If you’re looking to soothe your dog’s symptoms between veterinarian visits, bathing them can help. “This will remove allergens like cat dander or pollen from the skin, and may offer some temporary relief,” says Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. Just be sure to never roughly towel dry or blow dry a dog with allergies, as both of these things can exacerbate itchy skin. Simply use a towel to gently pat them dry.

You might hear other pet parents recommend giving your dog Benadryl, an over-the-counter antihistamine medication designed for humans. While it’s safe for dogs, it’s not FDA-approved for animals. “If you want to try giving your dog Benadryl, always call your veterinarian first,” says Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin. “In addition to antihistamines not being that effective, your dog’s symptoms could be due to something other than allergies, so they are better off seeing their veterinarian.” 

Preventing Cat Allergies in Dogs

If you’re looking for ways to prevent your dog’s allergic reaction, Dr. Rodriguez Sandlin notes that allergies are often genetic, so you might not be able to prevent them from developing.

However, there are some steps you can take to minimize your dog’s allergies to cat dander and hair, including:

  • Using a HEPA air filter to reduce cat dander 
  • Regular baths
  • Reducing your dog’s access to areas where your cat spends a lot of time
  • Regularly vacuuming or steam cleaning your soft furnishings
  • Washing your cat’s bedding 
  • Grooming your cat to remove as much dander as possible 
  • Choosing hard floors instead of carpet, which makes it easier to remove dander 

Cat dander is very pervasive, and is pretty much impossible to remove completely. But by speaking to your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan, and doing what you can to minimize dander in your house, your cat and dog can live relatively comfortably alongside each other — but probably not as best friends sharing the same bed!   

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