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Could Your Assistance Dog Be Allergic to Cats?

Could Your Assistance Dog Be Allergic to Cats?

Have you noticed some allergic-like symptoms in your hearing, guide, or service dog? Or are you just curious whether dogs can be allergic to cats?

While it’s not too common, yes, dogs can be allergic to cats. And just like in humans, the allergy is specifically to cat dander (not cat hair, which is a common misconception).

Symptoms and Diagnosis of a Canine Allergy to Cats

Dogs can suffer from all sorts of environmental, skin, and food allergies. To make diagnosis a little trickier, they can all cause a lot of the same symptoms.

If you’re trying to get to the bottom of allergic symptoms in your assistance dog, a cat is not the most likely culprit. However, if you’re having trouble figuring out the source of your assistance dog’s suffering after ruling out more common causes like food, dust, pollen, mites, fleas, and cleaning products—and you do have one or more cats at home—it’s worth investigating.

Common signs and symptoms of cat allergies (and other types of environmental allergies) in dogs include:

  • Itchiness
  • Excessive scratching, biting, or licking
  • Hair loss/bald spots/wounds/scabs/crusting
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

Your veterinarian can perform an allergy test on your service, hearing, or guide dog that includes many potential allergens, including cat dander.

Managing an Assistance Dog’s Cat Allergy

The best way to manage environmental allergies is to avoid exposure to the allergen. But that’s a lot harder to do with a cat than, say, a particular cleaning product that you can just stop using. As long as your assistance dog’s cat allergy can be managed well enough to prevent undue suffering and to allow her to remain alert and able to perform her tasks, she should be able to coexist with your cat(s).

Minimize cat dander around the home by frequently brushing your cat; vacuuming the floors, furniture, and pet beds; dusting hard surfaces where your cat hangs out; and laundering bedding.

Talk to your veterinarian about treating symptoms with an antihistamine, but be aware that these can cause drowsiness, which may interfere with your assistance dog’s ability to focus and work. You can also ask about supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, using a medicated shampoo for treating skin symptoms in dogs, and a process of desensitization with “allergy drops.”

References:

PetMD: Can a Dog Be Allergic to Cats?

PetMD: Food Allergies Vs. Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

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