ISSN 2398-2950      

Skin: atopic dermatitis


Synonym(s): Atopic disease, atopy


  • Cause: skin disease due to an allergic reaction to environmental allergens.
  • Signs: variable including symmetrical alopecia, miliary dermatitis, eosinophilic plaques and pruritus of head and neck.
  • Diagnosis: elimination of other causes of pruritus; history and clinical signs. Allergy testing is used to identify individual offending allergens.
  • Prognosis: control likely but life-long treatment required.


Predisposing factors


  • Familial history of atopy is assumed from the condition in other species but this will rarely be helpful in clinically assessing a feline patient.


  • Feline atopy is caused by an exaggerated or inappropriate immune response of the affected cat to environmental allergens.
  • The pathogenesis of this inappropriate response is unknown, although it is believed that a reaginic antibody (IgE and probably IgG) is present in the skin.
  • The reaginic antibody is assumed to cause an immediate reaction to the intradermal injection of antigens.
  • The precise immunology and pathogenesis remain obscure. Feline IgE has been ideintified and cloned but whether it is important in all cases that are currently considered to have feline atopic dermatitis is not clear. For example, many of these cases will be negative on both intradermal and serological allergy testing (which should be detecting allergen-specific IgE) and significant numbers that do have positive results on these tests fail to have a good response to allergen specific immunotherapy Allergy-specific immunotherapy based on them.


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Ravens P A, Xu B J & Vogelnest L J (2014) Feline atopic dermatitis: a retrospective study of 45 cases (2001-2012). Vet Dermatol 25 (2), 95-102 PubMed.
  • Schmidt V, Buckley L M, McEwan N A et al (2012) Efficacy of a 0.0584% hydrocortisone aceponate spray in presumed feline allergic dermatitis: an open label pilot study. Vet Dermatol 23 (1), 11-6 PubMed.
  • Wildermuth B E, Griffin C E & Rosenkrantz W S (2012) Response of feline esoinophilic plaques and lip ulcers to amoxicillin trihydrate-clavulanate potassium therapy: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled prosoective study. Vet Dermatol 23 (2), 110-8 PubMed.
  • Yu H W & Vogelnest L J (2012) Feline superficial pyoderma: a retrospective study of 52 cases (2001-2011). Vet Dermatol 23 (5), 448-e86 PubMed.
  • Favrot C, Steffan J, Seewald W et al (2011) Establishment of diagnostic criteria for feline nonflea-induced hypersensitivity dermatitis. Vet Dermatol 23 (1), 45-50 PubMed.
  • Wisselink M A & Willemse T (2009) The efficacy of cyclosporine A in cats with presumed atopic dermatitis: A double blind, randomised prednisolone-controlled study. Vet J 180 (1), 55-59 PubMed.
  • Last R D, Suzuki, Y, Manning T et al (2004) A case of fatal systemic toxoplasmosis in a cat being treated with cyclosporin A for feline atopy. Vet Dermatol 15 (3), 194-198 PubMed.
  • Moriello K A (2001) Feline atopy in three littermates. Vet Dermatol 12 (3), 177-181 PubMed.
  • Gilbert S & Halliwell R E (1998) Feline immunoglobin E - induction of antigen-specific antibody in normal cats and  levels in spontaneously allergic cats. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 63 (3), 235-252 PubMed.
  • Roosje P J, Whitaker-Menezes D, Goldschmidt M H et al (1997) Feline atopic dermatitis - a model for Langerhans cell participation in disease pathogenesis. Am J Pathol 151 (4), 927-932 PubMed.
  • Scott D W & Miller W H Jr. (1993) Medical management of allergic pruritus in the cat, with emphasis on feline atopy. J S Afr Vet Assoc 64 (2), 103-108 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Miller W H, Griffin C E & Campbell K L (2013) Feline Atopic Dermatitis. In: Muller & Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology 7th edn. Elsevier, Mosby, Missouri. pp 388-392.
  • Trimmer A M & Newton H M (2010) Rush and Conventional Immunotherapy. In:Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine volume 6. St Louis: Saunders, Elsevier, pp 358-367.
  • Foster A P & Roosje P J (2006) Update on Feline immunoglobulin E (IgE) and diagnostic recommendations for atopy. In: Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine volume 5. Edited by J R August. Elsevier Saunders, Missouri, pp 229-238.
  • Fadok V A (1995) Three feline dermatologic syndromes and their relationship to allergy. Proceedings of 1995 North American Conference Orlando, Florida Jan 14-18.

Related Images

Want more related items, why not
contact us

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

We have an ever growing content library on Vetlexicon so if you ever find we haven't covered something that you need please fill in the form below and let us know!


To show you are not a Bot please can you enter the number showing adjacent to this field

 Security code