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What is Collar Allergy?

With all of the different styles, materials, and varieties of cat collars, your cat may be allergic to one of the materials or several, which can be a difficult thing to determine. However, just getting rid of the collar may not be good enough to ease your cat’s itching and pain. If your cat has had a reaction that you are able to see, the allergens have already had the time to release histamines into the body, which causes the symptoms.

It may take several weeks for the side effects to go away if you just take off the collar and do not treat the problem. It is best to take your cat to see a veterinarian and get her treated with an antihistamine or corticosteroid injection because this can help reduce the itching and inflammation right away. The veterinarian may also be able to suggest a collar that is safe enough to put on your cat.

A collar allergy is likely an reaction to one of the materials used in making the collar such as nylon, plastic, leather, fabric, elastic, and vinyl. If it is a flea collar causing the reaction, your cat could be allergic to the medication in the flea repellent or the material it is made of. Since there are so many types of collars, it may be difficult to determine what material your cat is actually allergic to, but the results are usually similar, but with one difference: the location.

For example, if your cat is allergic to the material it is made of, the symptoms may be localized to the neck area, but if it is a drug reaction it can affect the whole body and can be very dangerous for your pet. The most common signs include scratching and redness around the collar area. There is always a chance for anaphylactic shock with any allergy, which is a deadly reaction to an allergen. It can cause your cat’s throat to swell until she is suffocated, so it is important that you see a veterinary professional if you suspect that your cat has a collar allergy.

Symptoms of Collar Allergy in Cats

Because all cats have different immune systems and collars are so varied, the symptoms can vary quite a bit as well. However, the most common are:

Regular Collars

  • Red irritated rash anywhere on the body but mostly on the neck
  • Chewing on and pulling out hair  
  • Long red lesions (granulomas)
  • Crusty sores and papules
  • Hair loss in the collar area

Flea Collars

  • Scratching all over the body
  • Extremely red rash or blisters on neck under collar
  • Chewing at feet (sometimes mutilating)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Swelling of the face
  • Sore, red ears

Types

There are many styles of cat collars made from all kinds of materials such as:

  • Safety collars that break away if the collar gets caught on something; these may be made of any kind of material
  • Elastic collars are similar to a large hair scrunchie and are usually made from some kind of fabric
  • Buckle collars are usually made of fabric, leather, nylon, or even plastic
  • Flea collars are usually made from plastic resins that are mixed with insecticide

Causes of Collar Allergy in Cats

The cause of collar allergy could be a number of different materials, which may include:

  • Vinyl
  • Plastic
  • Leather
  • Fabric
  • Elastic

Diagnosis of Collar Allergy in Cats

Diagnosing any kind of allergy can be challenging and time consuming. But, with a collar allergy, the veterinarian is usually able to tell where the main exposure area is so it is a bit easier. If may help if you bring the collar to show the veterinarian, especially if it is a flea collar that seems to be causing the problem. A comprehensive physical exam has to be done first, taking special notice of the skin. Your cat’s vital signs will be recorded and the overall health of your cat is also noted at this time. Blood, skin, urine, and stool samples will all be taken for analysis. To be thorough, your veterinarian may want to get some x-rays as well to rule out other problems.

Treatment of Collar Allergy in Cats

The treatment will include medication, and supportive care such as fluid therapy and oxygen may also be provided.

Medication

Some of the antihistamines your veterinarian may use are chlorpheniramine, clemastine fumarate, hydroxyzine, or diphenhydramine. Another drug that has shown to be effective is cyclosporine. Steroids such as triamcinolone, methylprednisolone flumethasone, dexamethasone, or betamethasone are also excellent for severe cases.  

Supportive Care

Intravenous (IV) fluid may be offered to prevent dehydration in your cat and oxygen is also available if needed.

Recovery of Collar Allergy in Cats

Your cat should be back to normal within a few days, although the rash may take a few weeks to heal if it was severe. Some cats have scars from self-mutilation, but that is rare.

Collar Allergy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Hermione
Tabby tortoiseshell domestic short hair
13 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Scab
Rash
Itching

Medication Used

Flea collar

My cat has just been using her first flea collar since spot treatments have become ineffective. It was great. The only fleas we have see have been dead ones and the cat has seemed much happier. Accept the other day I noticed she was developing a bald spot on her neck. On further inspection today I noticed that this had developed into a red scaley, and at some points scabby ring right under the collar, which I have since removed. Does this mean she is allergic? And if so what other flea treatments should I use? She has already had revolution and frontline which have not been working.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
In addition to removing the collar, you should also bathe the area with soap to remove any residue from the skin and hair which may be causing irritation; if you are having trouble finding an effective treatment you should try something different like Bravecto (fluralaner) or a natural pyrethrin spray (which would need to be applied every few days). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bmer
mixed
1 Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

My cat bemer is a black and gray tabby mix. Hi is around 1 and a half his neck is rely raw and is loosing hare and is very flaky do you know what is rong with him and how do we treat it at home

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
If Bemer had a flea collar on it may be due to the collar irritating his skin, you should the collar, bathe him and clean the area around the neck with a dilute antiseptic. If the irritation continues, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Trico
stripped kitten
around 4 months.
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Itchy
slight bleeding
Redness
raw

Medication Used

none
over the counter flea meds

our sweet little baby trico got fleas so we got every body little purple flea collars. after only a few days i noticed what looked liked something red under his color so i moved it to look and all the fur on the back of his neck was gone! it looked like it had been bleeding slightly and looks like it hurts so bad. we has to stuff our vet grave us for itchy irritated skin. but it was for another animal and i don't want to make it hurt worse. i feel so horrible for my lil kitten (he is only 12-15 weeks old.) i wish i could take away his pain i would trade spots with him :( to make this already long sob story a little shorter he is scratching at the edges as I'm sure it itches as its healing, but he is making the patch of raw skin bigger! i don't know what to do. please help me as soon as possible. i don't want this to get anyworse.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Firstly remove the collar (which I’m sure you’ve done) and bathe the neck area with a dilute antiseptic and bathe the paws with a sensitive shampoo (to remove any residue from the collar). Bathe the neck twice per day and clip the hair around the area if required. If you have any concerns, visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Frankie
Calico/Siamise
4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Rash
Swollen eyes

Hi
My cat had a very bad reaction to a flea collar and her neck broke out in a horrible rash and is completely raw in some areas. What can I do to make her more comfortable while she is healing. And if I bathe her what's the best way to do it without completely holding her down and hurting her.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
First step is to remove the flea collar (many people don’t remove it), secondly if Frankie is sensitive it baths and the process would be difficult if you cannot hold her scruff it may be best to find some chlorhexidine wipes to clean the area clean as much as possible. A bath with just warm water no shampoo would be ideal but I understand if you cannot do this; cats are not famous for taking a dip. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Spook
Manax
3 or 4 yrs
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Itching

I have a stray that I have taken in. She is a tailess cat and I already love her deeply. We have tried natural remedies and also a flea collar but she still has fleas. What should we use? Also we removed her collar and all around her neck is an awful rash and the hair is gone. We want to clean the wound but don't know if a bath is a good idea? What can we use to put on the rash. I only have disability and cannot afford a large vet bill.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Bathe the area around the rash with plain old water, if the skin isn’t damaged used a sensitive shampoo. As for flea treatments, get an effective spot-on medication for cats like Frontline (fipronil) to get rid of the fleas; another spray may be needed to clear the environment of fleas too. Natural flea control is effective (depending on the product) for repelling fleas but I haven’t seen a product effective at removing fleas from an animal. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Peter
tabby
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Hi we found fleas on our three cats 2 weeks ago. We killed if the fleas within 3 days by giving them a bath every night containing baking soda and salt. We noticed they had fleas again when we let on of older cats go outside. Peter who is the one I'm asking advice on, we gave him a bath an we found black dots all over his body. I assumed it was the necklace b cause it didn't look like eggs. It's been 2 days and it hasn't gone away what should we do?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
If the black dots are within the coat, it is most likely flea dirt or may be from the collar it is black and he was scratching at it a lot. If the black dots are on the skin and do not come off, then this is something different altogether. It would be best to give him another bath and to rigorously bathe him to remove any dirt or debris; if the dots are physically on the skin, visit your Veterinarian as there may be something else going on and should get your Veterinarian’s attention. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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