Cat Allergies: Common Causes and Treatment
Anyone who suffers from allergies will have sympathy for the unpleasantness a cat endures when experiencing a reaction. Unlike when we have a flare-up, cats cannot express what is bothering them. Since they are unable to explain, it’s up to us to note the signs of allergies and proceed from there.
What Are the Signs of Allergies?
Symptoms of feline allergies are quite similar to those exhibited by people. You know your cat best. If you notice an abnormal amount of scratching or sneezing, there’s probably a reason for it.
If you suspect your cat is having a reaction, look for the following signs:
- Excessive sneezing or coughing
- Itchy eyes, feet, or skin
- Swollen paws
- Ear infections
- Digestive upset
- Hot spots
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
What Causes Allergies?
Many assume that pet allergies stem from food. While dietary allergens can be the source, there are other common causes. Household irritants such as cigarette smoke, cleaning products, perfumes, or certain litters can overwhelm a cat’s system.
Fleas are a major contributor to allergic dermatitis. When a flea bites the skin, the subsequent saliva often causes itchiness for several weeks. If a cat repeatedly scratches at the bite, the inflammation can lead to scabbing or infection.
Grass, tree, and weed pollens can all aggravate cats. While outdoor pets are more likely to suffer from seasonal allergies, indoor cats are also easily affected.
Treatment for Allergies
Before you can treat a reaction, you will need to diagnose the cause. Your vet can narrow down potential triggers after an examination and questionnaire. Keep track of any new products or changes in your cat’s life so that you can provide accurate information.
With a food allergy, treatment will likely involve an elimination diet. Prescription foods are available for sensitive cats. It may take some trial and error before you can discover the aggravating culprit. Resist giving your pet any treats during this period.
Prevent flea allergies by keeping your pet on a regular topical or oral maintenance program. Should your cat already have fleas, you may have to do a deep clean of your home. Fleas can lay 20-40 eggs per day, and those eggs frequently fall into carpets, bedding, and furniture.
Remove any environmental triggers as soon as possible. If you’ve recently switched to a new type of litter, try using the previous brand and see if your cat’s symptoms subside. Vacuum often and avoid strongly scented cleaners.
Depending on the severity of the reaction, your vet may prescribe antihistamines. Check with your vet before giving a human-grade antihistamine, as this can work but should be done under guidance.
Medicated baths go a long way in alleviating itchiness. If your cat is intolerant of baths, medicated spray and wipes are handy. Certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may also provide relief to your pet. If nothing seems to ease your cat’s discomfort, talk to your vet about a referral to a dermatologist.