Cat Allergies: Common Causes and Treatments
It’s cute the first few times, but if your cat is sneezing and scratching more than normal, she may have cat allergies. Like us humans, our feline counterparts are allergic to things in their environment, foods and even some medications. Learn how to tell if your cat is dealing with allergy season.
Causes of Allergies in Cats
Just like us, a cat’s body can incorrectly attack a harmless foreign substance in the body, which leaves the animals own immune system fighting itself. Cat allergies can be caused by food, medications, cleaning products, cigarette some, fabrics, dust pollens, grass and flea bites. Even flea-control products can cause an allergy flareup.
The most common allergens affecting cats are:
- Pollen, grass, mold and mildew
- Fleas or flea-control products
- Medication (even after spay or neuter)
- Household cleaners
- Cat litter
- Cigarette smoke
If you can identify what your cat is allergic to, you can remove the exposure and keep her healthier.
Types of Cat Allergies
Allergies in cats are caused by many different things but can be broken down into three main areas of concern. Keep these in mind when diagnosing a potential allergy problem in your feline friend.
Skin Allergies in Cats
Skin allergies are often referred to as allergic dermatitis, essentially itchy and red skin and eyes. Dermatitis results from being in contact with allergens or ingesting something that leads to the skin allergy flareup. One of the most common causes of skin allergies are fleabites with allergic reactions happening with just a bite or two from a flea. Cat owners report not even seeing fleas as a problem but the allergy can aggressively flare in the neck, ears and base of the tail.
Contact dermatitis is the fancy term to describe what happens when your cat’s skin comes in contact with something he is allergic to such as grass or fabric. Your cat could also be allergic to pollen or mold at certain times of the year. There is also reports of feline chin acne resulting from drinking water out of plastic bowls leading to an allergic reaction in some cats. The perfumes added to some cat litter also create allergic reactions in cats.
Food Allergies in Cats
Food intolerance in cats refers to being allergic to certain ingredients in food or snacks. Certain foods are more likely to increase an allergy. Like dogs, many cats are developing allergies from chicken and chicken by-products. Many vets feel this is the result of how chicken is raised and processed. Either way, cat owners have to deal with the issue.
For some cats, this is a true allergy where the body is having an autoimmune response and reaction. For other cats, this is food intolerance meaning they have a sensitive tummy but aren’t really allergic. You can tell the difference by looking at the symptoms. Allergies will result in hives, redness of the skin, chronic ear infections, licking, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing and runny eyes. Food intolerance generally sticks to the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting.
Sudden or Acute Allergic Reactions
Anaphylactic shock is a rare yet serious and potentially deadly allergic reaction if left untreated. Causes are often acute incidents such as ingesting a medication or poison or getting an insect bite. A flood of chemicals gets released to fight the substance that can lead to shock. Initial symptoms include the sudden onset of swelling, itchiness in the face, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, lack of coordination and shock.
Left untreated, your cat’s blood pressure will drop and her airway constricts preventing air to get in. She can fall into a coma and die as a result of anaphylaxis. Treatment requires epinephrine, antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medication. Cats can have an acute allergic reaction to bee stings and other insect bites, food, medications and vaccines. Contact your veterinarian immediately with concerns.
Symptoms of Allergies in Cats
Allergies in cats show up in various symptoms. Your cat can have one or more symptom. If your cat has a few symptoms that don’t seem serious, monitor the situation. If things don’t improve, take a trip to your veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis.
The common symptoms to look for with cat allergies are:
- Red, itchy eyes, skin and ears
- Constant scratching
- Sneezing, coughing and wheezing
- Snoring from throat inflammation
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Ear infections
- Swollen paws
Remember that any serious concerns should always be addressed with your veterinarian.
Treating Allergies in Cats
Treating cat allergies usually requires identifying the allergen and removing your cat from the exposure. Most allergies in cats are treated with antihistamines to relieve the itching and discomfort. A common antihistamine given to cats is actually over-the-counter human Benadryl. Your veterinarian will help you zone in on the dosage. The other thing to do is stop exposing your cat to allergens such as dust, mold or foods that she has reactions to.
Find a hypoallergenic food, change cat litter to unscented brands or talk to your veterinarian about the best course of action for your cat. Remember to keep flea medication up to date and monitor your cat for reaction to that as well. It sometimes takes a bit of sleuth work to find out what your cat is allergic to and resolve the problem. Once you do, stay consistent to keep your cat healthy and happy.
Your Cat and Allergies
Many people feel that the way chicken and beef are raised and the high content of grains in cat food is one of the key reasons we see increases in cat allergies. Immune systems don’t develop the way they should if animals and their food sources were raised on organic, natural ingredients. Regardless of what the cause is, pay attention to what things are problems for your cat.
The good news is it doesn’t take a lot to keep your cat free from allergens. Once you determine what is bothering him, it just becomes part of cat ownership to keep her healthy. Spending a little more on food and treats you know she can eat without problems will likely save you from expensive vet bills down the road.
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