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What is Wool Allergy?

While the wool blanket may be your cat’s favorite thing to lie on, it may be causing him itchy skin and fur loss due to an allergy; this would be known as a contact allergy.  Cat’s can be allergic to almost anything, just like their human owners.  If your cat is allergic to wool and he is exposed to it, in addition to the itching it can lead to symptoms of scaling of the skin, formation of lesions and papules, and a secondary skin infection.  If diagnosed as a true allergy, treatment can begin in order to combat his symptoms.  If addressed properly, his prognosis of recovery is good.

It is possible your cat may have a form of allergy if he is experiencing signs of distress and irritation such as lesions on the skin or intense itching.  A contact allergy occurs when a substance or product causes irritation when touched or used on a regular basis. Though not common, wool is one such product that can cause an allergy in your cat.

Symptoms of Wool Allergy in Cats

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Pruritus 
  • Alopecia
  • Scaling
  • Crusted pustules
  • Papules
  • Lesions
  • Hyperpigmentation 
  • Excoriation
  • Lichenification 
  • Secondary skin infection 

Types

Your cat’s allergy to wool is known as a contact allergy.  Most contact allergies typically have a delayed type of sensitivity, but not always. This means it usually requires weeks to months of repeated exposure to the allergen for the sensitization to develop.  Once the sensitivity has been established, every time your cat is exposed to the wool the clinical symptoms typically appear within 24 to 48 hours.

Causes of Wool Allergy in Cats

Your cat can develop allergies to anything; he can be allergic to anything within his diet or environment without any known cause behind it. When the wool makes contact with your cat’s skin, his immune system sees it as a threat and causes symptoms of an allergic reaction to begin. It may begin immediately or it may take a few hours to see the first signs of a reaction.

Diagnosis of Wool Allergy in Cats

A general allergy in a cat does not always present itself like a human allergy would with sneezing and coughing.  In the case of a contact allergy, it typically presents itself as a skin issue that may vary in symptoms severity.  For example, the allergy may be identified as chronic feet licking or it may be something more obvious like hair loss all over the body. When diagnosing wool allergy in your cat, it will be based primarily on clinical signs.  

To begin her diagnosis, your veterinarian will start by performing a full physical exam on your cat.  She will make note of all his symptoms and where it is primarily affecting him on his body.  In addition to her examination, she will collect a verbal history from you in regards to your cat’s condition.  She will want to know the details as to what your cat has ingested and had contact with recently.  She will also want to know details such as when symptoms began and how they have been progressing.

To rule out other possible causes of your cat’s symptoms, your veterinarian may want to take a skin scraping sample from your cat or she may want to perform a skin cytology.  These tests can rule out skin issues that may be affecting your cat.  For example, she will need to rule out parasitic infections, fungal skin infections, or other likely skin ailments that can also cause the hair loss, itching, and other symptoms.  

There is also an available blood serum test panel you can have completed on your cat in regards to environmental allergies.  The results are very reliable and can offer you insight to your cat’s condition.  If you suspect wool is the cause of your cat’s symptoms, you can request that it be included in the allergen panel.  Your veterinarian will collect a blood sample from your cat and send it off for testing. The results will show what your cat is allergic to and how severely.

Treatment of Wool Allergy in Cats

Avoidance of the allergen is ideal.  If you have something in your home made of wool, you will need to move it to a location your cat does not have access to or you may need to consider getting rid of it all together.  In the meantime, to get control of your cat’s allergy symptoms your veterinarian may consider administering glucocorticoids for a short period of time.  She may also offer antihistamines or similar medications to see if it can offer him some relief.  

The skin will need to be treated depending on the lesions and symptoms your cat has developed.  If lesions are present anywhere on his body, your veterinarian may recommend a topical medication that may come in the form of a liquid, ointment, or spray for you to apply directly to the lesions themselves.  If there is a secondary infection from your cat scratching and allowing bacteria into his skin, your cat will need oral antibiotics.  Additional medications and treatments will be given in accordance with your cat’s condition.  

If you do pursue the allergy test panel, you can also pursue immunotherapy.  Immunotherapy can work very well but it may be something he needs for the rest of his life.  There are shots you can administer or liquid drops you can give to your cat sublingually to suppress his immune system against the specific allergens.  If he is allergic to wool, the drops or shots will train his body to no longer think it is a threat. Therefore, he will no longer break out when exposed to it.  Many owners choose this as a last resort as it can be expensive and needs at least one year of immunotherapy administration before relief is seen in the more severe cases.

Recovery of Wool Allergy in Cats

If you are able to remove wool from your cat’s environment, he should recover without a problem.  However, if you are unable to remove the source of wool, a treatment option should be utilized in order to offer your cat relief from his allergy symptoms.  If you do not control his allergy, it can lead to chronic infections of the skin that will need to be continuously treated.  If addressed correctly, he has a good prognosis for recovery.

Cojack
Tabby Orange And White
2 Years
Fair
Has Symptoms
Itching
So I recently created a window seat area for my cats. I found an old stadium blanket (100% wool) to use. My 2-year-old male cat LOVES it. About a week or so after setting it up, I noticed he was itching a lot. He is a strictly indoor cat, but I worried a flea might have gotten him anyway. a single flea treatment has not stopped the itching or even slowed it down, and I found no fleas on him. When I googled this wool allergy, I felt this could be the cause. My question is this: If I throw out the blanket and replace it with a non-wool option, do I really need to medicate him at all? I'd rather not give my pet meds if the allergy will subside on its own. There are currently no lesions or any skin redness that I can detect. he is mostly itching his face and his feet (front and back)