Just like their canine counterparts, our cats can develop itchy, painful skin conditions caused by their allergies. Here, our Lebanon vets explain some of the root causes of skin allergies in cats and show they can be treated.
Types of Allergies in Cats
If your cat is suffering from a food allergy, it means that their immune systems are overreacting or are sensitive to particular substances. Substances that cause allergic reactions in an animal or person are referred to as an allergen.
Some common allergens for people can include dander, mild, food or pollen.
An allergic reaction to a substance can lead to 3 general types of symptoms:
- Skin - Excessive itching, either in a specific spot or more generally all over your cat's body.
- Respiratory - Coughing, sneezing, wheezing and other respiratory issues including discharge from the nose or eyes.
- Gastrointestinal - This digestive reaction can cause vomiting, excessive or distinctively-smelling flatulence and diarrhea.
The different reactions in your cat will be caused by different allergens such as parasites inhabiting your pet's body, allergens that have come into contact with their skin, allergens they have ingested, and allergens that they have inhaled.
In today's blog, we look at different causes of skin allergies in cats, the associated symptoms and how they can be treated.
Causes of Skin Allergies in Cats & How They Are Treated
When it comes to skin allergies, the allergins causing the condition will either be parasites, food allergies, or environmental allergies.
While they are not a particularly common form of allergies, contact allergies can arise in some cats, causing irritation in some patches of skin wherever the allergen has come into contact with their body.
Some of the most common contact allergens include shampoos, flea collars and some bedding materials. While it may be difficult to point to the exact cause of your cat's allergy, it's worth the effort, since removing or simply not using the allergen will be able to quickly clear up your feline friend's reaction
Contrary to popular belief, not all cats will scratch wildly when bitten by a flea. In many cases, a flea bite is just a minor irritation. But if your cat is allergic to the proteins or antigens in flea saliva just a single bite could lead to a severe reaction resulting in intense itching. In many cases this will cause your cat to scratch relentlessly or chew their skin, removing large amounts of hair in the process. If your cat is allergic to flea bites you may also notice open sores or scabs on the skin, particularly at the base of the tail. These sores can result in secondary bacterial skin infections.
The best way for you to help treat this allergy is to keep fleas away from your cat. If your pet had fleas, ask your vet about the flea control products available for your feline friend. Steroidal creams may be prescribed by your vet to help alleviate the allergic reaction and give your cat immediate relief from their itchiness. ANtibiotics may be required if your cat has a secondary skin infection, however, because of their constant scratching.
Food Allergies in Cats
Food allergies in cats are caused by an immune reaction to an ingredient or an additive in their food. Common food allergies for cats include chicken, turkey, and beef. Some vegetable proteins found in commercially produced cat foods may be problematic for some cats including corn and wheat, and for other cats, food additives and preservatives can lead to an allergic response. Food allergies can lead to itchy skin, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress.
For cats that are suspected to have food allergies, an elimination or hypoallergenic diet will typically be prescribed. These diets will involve feeding your cat food consisting only of ingredients they have never previously eaten like venison or rabbit and eliminating their regular food to determine whether or not that is the source of their symptoms. In order to be truly effective, these diets require strict compliance. This includes removing any cat treats from their diet unless approved by your vet.
Elimination diets must be adhered to for between 9-12 weeks in order to give your cat's body time to eliminate all traces of the problematic ingredient and start the recovery process.
Inhalant & Atopy Allergies
Inhalant and atopy allergies are allergies that are related to substances found in the environment like pollen, ragweed, mold, dust mites, and pollutants like cigarette smoke. On top of that, reactions to these allergens can include itching across your cat's body.
It is very common in cats with these kinds of allergies to be allergic to more than one allergen, so it can take some patience to pinpoint the exact cause. While, in many cases, these allergies are seasonable like hayfever in people, in other cases the itching may be present all year round.
Treatment for these allergies largely depends on the severity of the allergy and whether it is seasonal. A hypoallergenic diet can be helpful in relieving symptoms and treatments can include:
- Corticosteroids (prednisone)
- Antigen injections/allergy shots
- Essential fatty acids/fish oils
- Immunosuppressive drug therapy
- Sprays and shampoos to improve the health of the skin
Ongoing Treatment for Cats with Skin Allergies
It's important to note that many of the treatments for skin allergies in cats take time to take effect and are not appropriate for sudden flareups. Your vet will provide you with treatments for acute symptoms and for the long-term management of the condition.
While treatment is able to help control and relieve your cat's symptoms, the only way to cure their symptoms is to remove whatever is causing your cat's reaction from the area around them. This means that while your cat may lead a symptom-free life for a long time, their allergy will likely reoccur at some point. Your vet will be able to provide you with advice and guidance about dealing with allergic reactions in your cat when they arise.
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.