Watching your cat suffer from allergies is frustrating, but you may be surprised to learn that the remedy could be sitting in your medicine cabinet. Some antihistamines are actually cat-safe, but you must exercise caution and talk to a vet before giving your cat any type of medication.
Ask Your Vet
Never give your cat medication without asking a veterinarian if it is suitable for your pet in particular. Some antihistamines can cause problems if your cat has a pre-existing medical condition, particularly heart or digestive problems. Do not assume that if a medication is OK for one cat, it is OK for another. If you do get the go-ahead from your vet, stick to the dose she recommends and do not give your pet more than that. Incorrectly medicating your cat can have disastrous consequences.
Safe Over-the-Counter Antihistamines
There are a few over-the-counter antihistamines that are generally safe for cats. Cats react well to products containing clemastine, chlorpheniramine and cetirizine. These antihistamines are found under different trade or brand names, so you need to read the label and find the active ingredient to make sure you have the correct medication. You can safely administer diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be safely administered to both dogs and cats, but is not as effective at treating symptoms in felines as chlorpheniramine, according to Wedgewood Pharmacy. Take note of all of the ingredients and call your vet to ask her about the specific medication in question.
Safe Prescription Antihistamines
You can use one of a few prescription-only antihistamines to treat your cat's allergy symptoms. Medication containing cyproheptadine (Periactin) and hydroxyzine (Atarax) are effective on felines and do not cause health problems in most cats. Hydroxyzine is not safe for pregnant cats in any dose, while cyproheptadine has not been proven to be pregnancy-safe, according to Cheyenne West Animal Hospital. Both medications can cause behavioral changes in your pet, and they also may induce sedated behavior like many of their over-the-counter alternatives.
Unsafe Medications for Cats
There are many anti-inflammatory and antihistamine drugs that are assuredly unsafe for your pet. Any medication containing pseudoephedrine is not suitable for pets. Even a small amount can be dangerously toxic, according to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Symptoms of pharmaceutical poisoning include internal bleeding, vomiting and convulsions. Take your cat to an emergency care center immediately if he has ingested any potentially toxic medicine.
Reduce Allergen Exposure
Even if you receive the green light on a particular antihistamine from your vet and your cat's symptoms are subsiding after treatment, you should still try to clear the environment of potential allergens to help your pet as much as possible. Keeping your house clean is a big step toward this goal. Dust and pollen are common sources of allergens, so keeping your pet indoors during the spring and regularly vacuuming can help reduce his exposure to irritating particles. Bird dander, cleaning supplies and other factors can also contribute to your cat's discomfort and may need to be addressed.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.