Cat Care | Allergies in Cats
We aren’t talking about people allergic to cats, we mean what your cat is allergic to. Just like humans, cats have allergies too. Allergies in pets don’t usually come as sneezing, wheezing or respiratory issues, but instead as skin issues, such as itching and scratching. Cat allergies fall into three main categories – flea allergy dermatitis, Atopy, and food allergies. Many cats can be affected by one or more.
What Are Food Allergies?
Food allergies are allergies caused by one or more ingredients in food. The most common allergens are beef and milk products, wheat and soy, corn, chicken and eggs. The cause of food allergies is still unknown, but one cause could be the immune system trying to fight off “foreign” particles.
The most common symptom of food allergies are itching, licking or chewing. Skin problems are also very common with food hypersensitivity. Some pets can also suffer from upset stomachs and digestion issues. Food allergies can happen at any age, and at any time.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
The best way of diagnosing food allergies is to have your pet do an exclusion diet for 8-12 weeks. An exclusion diet will contain substances that your pet has not had before. Because protein is typically the source of the allergen, exclusion diets will be made up of venison, fish or duck, which are commonly not in cat food. Your vet will be able to provide more details.
If your pet has a food allergy, and the exclusion diet causes a decrease in symptoms, you can then begin providing the regular food again one week at a time, waiting for symptoms to return. When you see symptoms return, you’ll know what the culprit is.
How Are Food Allergies Treated?
The best way to help your pet with food allergies is to carefully monitor their diet and look for trigger foods that cause issues. You can also work with our vet to create a good diet plan.
What Are Flea Allergies?
Flea allergy dermatitis, otherwise known as FAD, or Flea Bite Hypersensitivity, is caused when a flea bites the pet and releases saliva. A single bite can trigger intense itching, and cats with FAD often undergo hair loss. FAD can lead to hot spots, or small skin infections. You may find fleas or flea dirt (feces from fleas) on your pet, even though many cats with FAD have very few fleas, since they constantly itch and scratch.
How Are Flea Allergies Diagnosed?
Your vet will look for the typical symptoms: scratching, itching, sore skin, flea dirt. Then, the vet will get an intradermal as FAD symptoms can be similar to other conditions, like other parasites, infections, or separate allergies.
How Are Flea Allergies Treated?
The best way to treat FAD is to prevent the fleas from attaching onto your cat. Insecticides, flea collars, and insect growth repellent are all safe and available. Your vet will be able to recommend the best option for your cat. Proper daily grooming can also be an excellent way to avoid fleas, as well as keeping bedding clean. To break the “itch cycle” that leads to skin infections, your vet can also prescribe antihistamines and certain fatty acid supplements to relieve inflammation. Warm water baths and anti-itch shampoo can also help.
There is no cure for FAD, so you’ll have to be on guard continuously for your pet’s health and safety.
What is Atopy?
Atopy is having environmental allergies. This can come from pollen, mold, dust mites, and other animal’s hair or skin fragments. It’s most common with dogs but can affect cats too. The incidence of atopy depends as much on your pet’s genetics as the allergen itself.
Itching, mostly of the face, feet lower chest and belly are the common symptoms. Depending on the cause, Atopy can be seasonal or year round. Hot spots and skin infections, as well as ear problems can develop. Constant itching can lead to hair loss. It’s typically around the age of 1-3 that atopy allergies make themselves known.
How is Atopy Diagnosed?
Atopy is confirmed through process of elimination. Other allergy-causing factors must be ruled out, like parasites, food allergies, and yeast infections. Your vet may ask for instances of itching in your pet’s past, and perform a blood test.
How is Atopy Treated?
- Anti-itch therapy, including the use of drugs, medication or shampoos.
- Moving the source of the allergy as far away as possible.
- Hypo sensitization uses injections of known allergy causing agents to locate the problem. Although the effectiveness varies, this method can provide relief to 75% of pets.
- If the allergy is mild, Elizabethan Collars can be used by physically preventing any itching.