Cats with Atopic Dermatitis

Orange tabby cat grooming his paw

Atopic dermatitis is an irritating allergic disorder that causes itchiness, hair loss, and scabs in cats. Atopic dermatitis is an outward symptom that a cat's body is reacting negatively to the offending allergen, much like people. The technique and efficacy of treatment varies, but removing the allergen is a sure-fire way to reduce a cat's suffering.

What Is Atopic Dermatitis?

One of the most prevalent feline allergies is feline atopic dermatitis, also known as feline atopy or allergic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis arises when cats are exposed to environmental allergens such as pollen, mold spores, and dust particles, rather than food or flea allergies. Allergens can be breathed in or eaten. Atopic dermatitis in cats can be seasonal or non-seasonal.

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis in Cats

The majority of cats that are allergic exhibit symptoms in their early age. Although the symptoms of atopic dermatitis may match those of other allergies or skin diseases, understanding the following indicators can aid your veterinarian in making a diagnosis:


  • Scratching at the head and/or neck
  • on the front legs from
  • Scabs on the face, front legs, and/or armpit areas
  • Red, crusty spots on the face, ears, front legs, and/or armpit areas

A cat with atopic dermatitis may gnaw, lick, or scratch all over the place. The paws, cheeks, ears, axilla (or armpit regions), and front of the legs are usually the most affected. Flea allergic dermatitis, on the other hand, causes cats to chew and lick their tails, rump, groin, and thigh area. Of fact, a cat with atopic dermatitis may also have flea allergy dermatitis, which would result in scabby lesions and hair loss in both places.

Causes of Atopic Dermatitis

Exposure to environmental allergens can happen outdoors or indoors. Common allergens that trigger atopic dermatitis include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Wool or nylon
  • Certain plastics

Diagnosing Atopic Dermatitis in Cats

Your vet will take cytology samples, most often obtained simply by rubbing a piece of clear tape over a lesion, to determine if it contains bacteria, yeast, or both.

A veterinary dermatologist will be required to screen certain cats. Intradermal testing and even blood tests are frequently used by these professionals to help detect the allergens that are harming your cat.


The treatment of your cat's acute skin infections is the initial step in treating feline atopic dermatitis. These infections are caused by scratching and biting as a result of the allergic reaction. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial skin infections, whereas antifungal drugs are used to treat fungal infections.

Your veterinarian may prescribe steroids to help ease your cat's itching right away. Corticosteroids are quite successful in reducing itching and inflammation, but they do have some disadvantages. They have both short- and long-term negative effects when used. Your veterinarian can advise you on whether corticosteroids are appropriate for your cat.

Identifying what your cat is allergic to is the most effective long-term treatment for feline atopic dermatitis. If the allergen can be identified, a veterinary lab can manufacture customized immunotherapy drops for your cat to take orally to assist increase their immune system's response to the allergen. Even so, many cats will require long-term drugs like cyclosporine to help avoid flare-ups.

Prognosis for Cats with Atopic Dermatitis

Because of their very sensitive immune systems, cats with atopic dermatitis can be difficult to treat well, although most can be controlled with careful therapy. The illness can be seasonal, with some seasons being more severe than others.

How to Prevent Atopic Dermatitis

Unfortunately, there is now no treatment available to prevent feline atopic dermatitis from developing. Recognizing the symptoms and keeping track of your cat's flare-ups, on the other hand, can help keep your cat as comfortable as possible when their allergies flare up.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.