Thursday, February 27, 2014


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Feline Allergies
by Jill Anne Sparapany 

Did you know your cat can have allergies?

When exposed to certain everyday substances, the immune system can become over sensitive and “see” these substances, or allergens, as dangerous. The allergic reaction is caused when the body attempts to get rid of the allergens. Cats with allergies can have extreme reactions!

Anything can be an allergy trigger for your cat so you will need to keep note of the home environment, food and treats and when symptoms are seen.
Allergies can occur in cats at any age and all cats are at risk. Allergens can be airborne, in food, applied to their skin or transmitted by fleas. Cats that spend time outdoors are more prone to flea and pollen allergies. Overweight cats and cats exposed to cigarette smoke can develop asthma.

Symptoms of allergies:
Sneezing or wheezing. Coughing may be seen if the cat has asthma.
Itchy skin and increased or excessive scratching.
Itchy runny eyes.
Itchy back or base of tail. Most common in flea allergies.
Snoring caused by throat inflammation.
Swollen paws. Paw chewing.

A flea allergy can be triggered by the bite of only one flea! 
 The intense itching can last for 2 to 3 weeks.

Tree, grass, mold and mildew.
Fleas and flea-controlled products.
Prescription drugs.
Cleaning products.
Cigarette smoke.

Fabrics, rubber and plastic materials.

If you suspect your cat has allergies, visit your vet. Complete history and physical exam will be done. Taking notes of symptom occurrences and what your cat was doing and its environment can help narrow down the allergens. Your cat may also have skin or blood tests. Intradermal skin testing is the test of choice.

A special elimination diet may be recommended to find out if it is a food allergy. To diagnose food allergy, your cat will be fed a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet exclusively for 12 weeks. This diet is free of potential allergy-causing ingredients that your cat has never been exposed to. No flavored medications or treats!

Reintroduction of foods will start after symptoms have resolved. Careful notes of foods eaten and recurrence of symptoms will be valuable information for your vet and to prevent future allergic reactions.

Many cats with food allergies may require home-cooked meals. The meals must be done under the supervision of your vet because it requires special protein and supplements for food balancing.

Treatment of cat allergies:  Prevention is the best treatment!

Prevent flea exposure. Start flea control program for all your pets before the season begins. It only takes one outdoor pet to be exposed and carry fleas inside. Your vet can recommend flea control products. (Note: Certain flea control medicated collars have been associated with excoriated and burned skin.)

Do NOT under any circumstances use the cheap Hartz flea treatment from Walmart.  Many cats have DIED from it!    Read this page for stories on the product!

Use dust-free and unscented litter. Most litters have some dust but you can minimize the dust with careful pouring of the litter. Your cat may be allergic to the chemicals in scented litter.

If dust is the allergen, frequent vacuuming will reduce allergy flare-ups. Clean pet’s bedding once a week and vacuum your home, including rugs and dust furniture, at least twice a week.

Bathing your cat one or two times a week may help relieve itching and removes any environmental allergens and pollens from skin and fur. Since frequent bathing may dry out skin, ask your vet for shampoo recommendations.

What about allergy medications?

For airborne pollens, cortisone or steroids will help control the allergic reaction. Care must be taken in long-term steroid use! These are by vet prescription only – do not use any Over-The-Counter or prescription medications without full knowledge and consent of your vet!
Allergy injections are the best way to treat allergies. Medications treat the symptoms.

Antihistamines (Benadryl) may be used and work best before exposure to the allergen. Do not medicate your cat without your vet’s approval!    Liquid Benadryl often has alcohol.  Talk to your vet about using benadryl pills instead.

Fatty acid supplements can help relieve itchy skin. Many products, as shampoos, aloe-based, and other natural products, are available. Check with your vet as your cat may also be allergic to ingredients in these products!

Discuss flea prevention with your vet. There are many products that are applied once a month to the back of neck (so the cat does not ingest it while grooming).

Allergy-related asthma: Any stress, pollen or allergen exposure can trigger an asthma attack.
For short-term relief, your vet will prescribe meds that will quickly open breathing passages. For long-term management, corticosteroids may be used. These will be given via inhalers. Have your vet practice with you on giving inhalers.

**  Read the BCR blog from Feb. 11, 2014 on asthma and inhaler administration. There is a brief video on inhaler use!

Always follow your vet's instructions on how much and when to give allergy meds!  Do NOT give more than instructed.  If your cat's symptoms are not relieved, call your vet!