If your cat has been itching and scratching or has a cough or nasal congestion, they may have allergies. Today, our Fountain Valley vets discuss allergies in cats and how they are diagnosed and treated.
Types of Allergies in Cats
When it comes to allergies in cats, there are four common types seen by veterinarians: environmental, fleas, food, and seasonal. Below are the types of allergies and the different ways in which they can impact your cat.
Environmental Allergies - The cause of environmental allergies include pollen, grass, fungi, mold, and dust. Your cat may also have allergies to things like cigarette smoke, perfume, and certain types of cleaning products.
Flea Allergies - When a small external parasite known as a flea bites your cat, it causes an allergic reaction that can be very irritating. The saliva from a flea bite can affect a cat’s entire body, not just where the cat was bitten. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right flea-prevention product to help protect your cat.
Food Allergies - Some cats may have allergies to certain foods. This can cause skin itchiness, vomiting, or diarrhea. Your veterinarian can help you find out which foods are irritating your cat and create an appropriate diet.
Atopic Dermatitis - When a cat experiences allergies, their bodies can often react with a skin condition called atopic dermatitis. With this condition, your cat may develop skin sores, scabbing, hair loss, and redness.
Signs Your Cat Has Allergies
If your cat has allergies, some of the most common allergic reactions in cats cause the following behaviors, conditions, and symptoms:
- Sneezing and coughing
- Swollen, sensitive paws
- Ear infections
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Excessive licking (grooming)
- Itchy, running eyes
- Red or dry skin
If your cat is showing any of the symptoms above, you should schedule an appointment with your vet to diagnose the cause of your cat's unhealthy skin condition.
Diagnosing Allergies in Cats
If your cat is itching, scratching, and wheezing your vet will likely want to complete a thorough physical exam and discuss your cat's medical history. They will also recommend laboratory testing to be sure of your cat's diagnosis.
Cat allergy testing is done with either a blood test or a skin test. For a blood test, the vet will take a sample of the cat’s blood and send it to a lab for evaluation. For a skin test, small injections are given to the cat just under the skin. If your cat is allergic to a particular substance, a hive will often appear on their body.
Veterinary Allergy Medicine for Cats
Veterinarians take a multi-faceted approach to treating pet allergies. They will start by treating the clinical signs such as excessive itchiness and secondary bacterial or yeast skin or ear infections.
Depending on the allergen, and the reaction it causes, treatment can include:
- Prescription shampoo (antibacterial or antifungal)
- Prescription ear flushes
- Anti-inflammatory topical medications
- Oral antibiotics
- Itch relief medication, such as Apoquel for dog allergies or Atopica for cats
- Injectable monoclonal antibody therapy
- Corticosteroid therapy
If your pet has mild seasonal allergies without a skin infection, over-the-counter antihistamines might be an option for allergy relief. Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin are commonly used allergy medicine for pets. always contact your vet before giving your pet over-the-counter medication to ensure the medication and dosage are safe for your cat.
What to Give Your Cat for Allergies
There are home remedies that can help alleviate certain symptoms. Lifestyle changes that can make a difference include:
Home Improvements - Making your home as hypoallergenic as possible can help your cat with allergies. Consider installing an air cleaner with a HEPA filter and making sure your fabric surfaces are cleaned often.
Soothing Baths - Your veterinarian may recommend bathing your cat with a pet shampoo containing oatmeal. (If your pet is on a flea medicine, check with your vet to ensure the topical flea or tick medication won’t be washed away, reducing the effectiveness.
Dietary Supplements - Supplementing your pet’s diet with fish oil can be an effective way to reduce flaky or itchy skin. Probiotics can also offer cats relief from skin allergies by restoring balance to bacteria levels in their GI tract.
Physical Blockers - A simple intervention for itchy pets is to have them wear some kind of clothing to cover the itchy areas. It has been shown to reduce their need to scratch.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.