Just like us humans, Cats are also prone to many allergies which may be triggered by an internal or an external element is known as an ‘allergen’. It often causes a reaction that affects them negatively. Cat Allergies are one of the most common conditions found. It occurs when there is an overreaction by the immune system of cats caused by these allergens. Allergens are simply foreign proteins that the body's immune system tries to remove.
Types of Allergies
Allergies can be broadly divided into 4 different categories. These include insects (fleas), food allergies, inhalants (house dust, pollen, and molds), and contact. The signs in the case of each of these allergies might be similar but there are some unique features of each of them.
Flea Allergy – It is one of the most common types of allergies found in cats. It is a misbelief that these kinds of allergies only cause minor skin irritation. A cat with flea allergies has a severe reaction to even a single fleabite. The flea’s saliva may contain proteins or antigens and when it bites some of its salivae is injected into the skin. In extreme cases, it can lead to excessive itching, scratching, or even chewing leading to a removal of hair which results to open sores or scabs on the skin. And this causes secondary bacterial skin infection.
Food Allergy – An immune reaction to a food or food additive is what causes a food allergy. Beef, pork, chicken, or turkey, vegetable proteins such as those found in corn or wheat, as well as food additives and preservatives, may cause food allergies. Disorders like itching, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress may be caused due to this. Food allergies account for approximately 10% of allergies in both dogs and cats.
Inhalant Allergy or Atopy – In dogs and humans, atopic dermatitis generally refers to allergic reactions to environmental allergens such as pollens, grasses, molds, mildew, and house dust mites. For cats, this allergy is not very well understood as of now. Most cats that have an inhalant allergy are allergic to several allergens. The generalized consequence of it will be itching. Most of the time the itching will last just a few weeks at a time during one or two periods of the year but other times if the number of allergens is more, then the cat may be itchy year-round.
Contact Allergy – This is the least common allergy found in cats. It is basically a result of a local reaction on the skin from contact with an allergic substance. Some shampoos, flea collars, or certain types of bedding, such as wool, etc. are examples of allergens here. In the case of contact allergies, identification can be quite difficult.
Common Symptoms of Allergies in Cats
The cat’s skin becomes the biggest indicator of the presence of an allergy in the cat. The signs and symptoms include –
Most Common Food Allergens in Cats
The foods typically associated with food allergies in cats include beef, fish, chicken, turkey, egg, soy, and dairy products. Chicken is the most common among them. Unlike dogs, grains or gluten allergies are very rare in cats. Read more about Periodontal Disease in Cats & Ear Infections in Cats!
Cat Breeds Most Susceptible to Allergies
There is no specific breed or age range that food allergies target. However, there are certain breeds that are more susceptible to food allergies than others. For example, Siamese and Siamese crosses may have a higher risk of food allergies than other breeds. Read more about hypoallergenic cats.
There are again a lot of breeds that are susceptible to allergies or the skin, food, or environmental allergens, so if you see any odd symptoms in your Cat, consult your vet immediately. Such allergies are usually seen in Cats with shorter and thinner coats which provides less protection against fleas and termites.
Treatment for Allergies in Cats
Treatment largely depends largely on the length of the specific allergy season. It also depends on the type of allergy the cat is suffering from.
Flea allergy – The best treatment here is to simply avoid flea bites. Strict flea control is the foundation of successful treatment. There are a lot of flea preventives available in the market at reasonable rates. Apart from that, Corticosteroids (cortisone or steroids) can also be used to block the allergic reaction and give immediate relief to a cat suffering from the intense itching of flea allergy dermatitis. In case of secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics may be prescribed by your vet.
Food allergy – The treatment of food allergy starts with the correct identification of problematic foods for the cat. Testing is conducted by feeding an elimination or hypoallergenic diet. This would mean a diet where the ingredients are new to the cat. This would go on for at least 8 weeks, as it takes that much time for all other food products to be removed from the body. If the cat’s symptoms improve after the food trial, a presumptive diagnosis of food allergy is made. This has been proven a successful way to diagnose and treat food allergies.
Inhalant allergy – The treatment here would depend on the duration of the allergy. Corticosteroids can be used to block the allergic reaction in most cases and bring about rapid improvement in the cat’s clinical signs. immunosuppressive drug therapy is another option to cure this allergy. The drugs specifically target the immune cells involved in atopic dermatitis and reduce the hypersensitivity reaction that the body is experiencing. Specific antigen injections or allergy shots are yet another way to cure these allergies.
Note: Atopic dermatitis is a lifelong condition and frequent relapses are common. There is no ‘cure’ for allergic skin disease, only treatments that lessen clinical signs and improve quality of life.
Contact allergy – There is no such treatment for contact allergies. The logical thing to do here is to remove the irritant from the vicinity once it is identified.
Allergies are common in cats but not a disease, as they are just their immune systems reacting or trying to fight against foreign uncomfortable allergens. The way to protect your cat from them is to identify the root cause of the allergy and prevent the contact or ingestion of the same as far as possible and keep consulting your vet about further treatments once an allergy is detected.
Happy Mood and Health to your Cat and lots of Love and Purrs to you!