Ask a Vet: Can Dogs Be Allergic to Cats (and Vice Versa)?

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 |  Mar 6th 2012  |   6 Contributions


Hey, Dogster and Catster readers and members: The sister sites have big news! A format change is in the works, and you can read about it here for Dogster, and here for Catster.

Brodie is our 7-year-old West Highland White Terrier. He has had no coat or skin problems until about a year ago. The problem is that his back gets extremely oily and he loses the undercoat. His back is also very sensitive to the touch and
he tries to scratch it.

Nothing had changed in the environment except one thing. Our daughter graduated from college and moved back into the house with her cat. We had never had a cat in the house. Can our dog have a cat allergy? We have another Westie as well and he doesn't have any problems. Thanks!

Sharon
Columbia, TN

West Highland White Terriers are notorious for skin problems. They are famously prone to allergic skin disease. They also are prone to some non-allergic skin issues such as primary seborrheic dermatitis, a syndrome characterized by hair loss and greasy, oily skin.

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This Westie is having a good scratch.

There are three main categories of allergies in dogs, including Westies. In all dogs, reactions to flea saliva are the most common cause. Any dog with suspected allergic skin disease should receive a high-quality flea preventative regularly. So should all animals (such as your daughter's cat) living in the house with the dog.

Food allergies are another major cause of skin problems in Westies, and in dogs in general. Many dogs with chronic skin issues benefit from special hypoallergenic diets. These special diets are available through veterinarians (you can find recipes for homemade diets online, but be sure to do your homework to make sure that they're nutritionally replete).

Environmental allergens make up the final category that contributes to allergic skin disease in dogs and include pollen, mold spores, dust or storage mites, other insects, and, for some dogs, cat dander. (Dogs also can be allergic to humans.)

Although Brodie's skin problems coincided with the introduction of a cat into the house, it is not a foregone conclusion that a cat allergy is the cause of your dog's issues. Allergies to cats are not common in dogs. It is entirely possible that Brodie has developed a new allergy to one of the more common canine allergens — adult-onset allergies are not unusual. It also is possible that his skin problems aren't allergic at all. Based upon your description (especially if Brodie isn't very itchy), I would not be surprised if he has primary seborrheic dermatitis or another non-allergic issue.

I'd recommend a checkup for Brodie. If your vet is stumped, then it would be wise to follow up with a specialist in veterinary dermatology. Your vet should be able to refer you to one.

Finally, for those who are wondering: Yes, cats can be allergic to dogs (and to humans). But such allergies are rare.

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