What is Lavender Allergy?

Many turn to lavender oil for its anti-inflammatory elements as well as its soothing effects. 

While lavender oil may be used to help with any pain and swelling experienced in an allergic reaction, in some cases an allergy will occur to the pollen or the oil of the lavender plant. While an allergy to lavender pollen and oil does not occur frequently, when an allergy is experienced by a cat it can lead to discomfort, to include significant itching and inflammation.

In an allergy to lavender, your cat’s immune system will mount an aggressive response, leading to itchy and inflamed skin among other symptoms.

Symptoms of Lavender Allergy in Cats

Should your cat develop an allergy to lavender, he may display:

  • Skin that is itchy and inflamed
  • Licking excessively
  • Hair loss
  • Skin ulceration
  • Red and itchy eyes
  • Respiratory issues
  • Ongoing skin and ear infections

Symptoms will usually start in your cat between the ages of one and three.

Types 

Your cat can experience an allergy to lavender oil that is administered to him as well as to the pollen that is present in the lavender plant, should he go outside and rub up against the plant itself.

Causes of Lavender Allergy in Cats

If your cat experiences an allergy to lavender, it is due to an aggressive response by his immune cells to a protein within it. These cells, known as mast cells, give off a histamine when particular allergens stimulate the immune system. When histamine gets in contact with your cat’s tissues, it will cause inflammation. This can cause your cat to have itchy and inflamed skin. Should the cells that are in the sinuses and eyes be impacted by the irritant, your cat may have a runny nose and sneeze often.

Diagnosis of Lavender Allergy in Cats

Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination of your cat, as well as ask you for information regarding any symptoms you have observed, when you first noticed them and any changes in the symptoms that you have witnessed. Your veterinarian will likely scrape some of your cat’s skin cells in order to examine them under a microscope to best determine if there are any organisms (like mites, fungi or bacteria) that are causing the symptoms that your cat is experiencing. 

Your veterinarian may conduct other tests in order to rule out other causes of his symptoms. A patch test (also known as an intradermal skin test) may be administered as this will help to determine the particular allergen that is triggering the response in your cat. In cases where the patch test cannot be used (perhaps as a result of damage to your cat’s skin), blood may be taken to look at the reaction of the allergens to the blood.

Treatment of Lavender Allergy in Cats

Should your cat experience an allergy to lavender, your veterinarian may recommend shampoo or ointment that contains hydrocortisone. These will help with the swelling and skin irritation that your cat is experiencing. Antihistamines do not work to alleviate symptoms in all cats, however, they are an easy option to try in order to help your cat get relief. Corticosteroids are typically very effective in reducing the allergy symptoms, although they do cause serious side effects (particularly when used over the long term) and are usually only recommended as a treatment upon other options not being successful. Should your veterinarian recommend corticosteroids, side effects in short term treatment tend to be minimal (diarrhea, increased thirst). Long term use of corticosteroids can lead to your cat developing problems with his liver as well as diabetes. When your cat is being treated with corticosteroids, your veterinarian will likely monitor his blood chemistry levels in order to catch any problems as they develop. 

Another treatment your veterinarian may consider should your cat be experiencing an allergy for an extended period of time and is not responding to antihistamines is immunotherapy. Immunotherapy takes a lot of time to develop and is costly, however it is very successful. A test will be conducted that will confirm the active allergen and then an injection will be developed specifically for your cat with altered antigens. The injection will be given weekly or monthly which will lead to your cat being desensitized to the allergen.

Recovery of Lavender Allergy in Cats

Lavender oil can be helpful for people or animals who are experiencing a skin allergy, but before using it on your cat it is a good idea to speak with your veterinarian. Some extracts can have a negative interaction with supplements and medications that your cat is already taking, causing additional problems. Should you be using a lavender essential oil, you will want to dilute it with unscented oil as at full strength it will be too concentrated for your cat.

If your cat experiences an allergy to lavender, in addition to treating the allergy, you will want to keep your cat away from any lavender so that he does not experience a further reaction.