Feline Allergy

Feline Asthma

There is increasing evidence to suggest that many cases of feline asthma are allergic in origin.


Asthma is a common inflammatory disease of the lower airway affecting approximately 1-5% of the cat population.1 The median age of presentation is 4-5 years of age although, it is thought many cats presenting at this time will already have a long-term history of the disease, so the actual age of onset could well be significantly younger.2 Breeds found to be at an increased risk include; Balinese, Korat, Oriental, Seychellois and Siamese.3


Cats with feline asthma present with a range of clinical signs including;

  • Episodic severe respiratory distress on expiration (acute cases)
  • Persistent wheezing (chronic cases)
  • Coughing (sometimes only seen on gentle tracheal palpitation)
  • Vomiting or paroxysmal hacking (may be mistaken for hairballs)

Atopic Dermatitis

Feline atopic dermatitis is less well characterised than the canine form of the disease, but has a reported incidence rate of between 10-20%.4 Domestic breeds (all hair lengths) along with the Devon Rex and Abyssinian are found to be at an increased risk of the condition.5 Feline atopic dermatitis generally presents under the age of 3, with a later onset more likely to be attributed to a food allergy.


Cats with atopic dermatitis present with a range of clinical signs including;

  • Pruritis
  • Facial excoriation
  • Otitis externa (with or without infection)
  • Miliary dermatitis
  • Eosinophilic granuloma complex lesions
  • Overgrooming
  • Persistent licking
  • Alopecia


In cases of atopy, lesions are most likely to be seen on the ventral abdomen, lips, chin, face and neck, with head and neck dermatitis more likely to be a result of an adverse food reaction.

Flea Allergic Dermatitis

The presence of recurrent dorso-lumbar dermatitis, particularly if seasonal, is highly suggestive and a unique feature of flea allergic dermatitis.5 Visualisation of fleas or flea faeces can be difficult in very pruritic, overgrooming animals. Trial flea therapy is advised in all cases of suspected allergy, with symptoms usually resolving with diligent flea control.


  1. Reinero R. Advances in the understanding of pathogenesis, and diagnostics and therapeutics for feline allergic asthma. The Veterinary Journal 2011; 28–33:190.
  2. Trzi, J.E. & Reinero C.R. (2014). Update on feline asthma. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2014; 91-105:44.
  3. Vapalahti K, Virtala A, Joensuu TA et al. Health and Behavioural Survey of over 8000 Finnish Cars. Front Vet Sci 2016; 3:70.
  4. Marsella R and De Benedetto A. Atopic dermatitis in Animals and People: An Update and Comparative Review. Veterinary Sciences 2017; 4:37.
  5. Hnilica KA. Small Animal Dermatology. Elsevier 2011. 3rd ed.