Can Cats Have Allergies?

When it comes to the overall health of your cat, are you able to identify unusual symptoms or behaviors? Contrary to what one may assume, cats can develop allergies just like their human counterparts. While they may show familiar signs like sneezing or wheezing, uncommon reactions may occur such as coughing, vomiting, snoring, and biting.

Unfortunately, pet owners cannot directly communicate with their cats. Because of this, it’s important to notice behavioral changes just as much as physical changes. If your cat is acting strange or out of character in any way, this could be an indication that something is physically wrong with their health.

When dealing with allergies, a simple environmental exposure can lead to a long list of symptoms. Once the immune system is affected by an allergen, side effects will begin to show. It’s also important to note that not all feline allergies are the same. There are four main causes when assessing allergies in cats that include atopic dermatitis, flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies, and allergic contact dermatitis.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic allergic reactions are commonly diagnosed in cats. This skin irritation is typically seasonal and shows symptoms depending on when the source is present in the environment. Ragweed, dust mites, grass, mold spores, and spring tree pollen are all offenders for causing atopic dermatitis. These environmental allergies can cause varying symptoms depending on each animal.

Some symptoms that are associated with an atopic allergic reaction include:

  • Chewing on the feet or paws
  • Scratching of the face or belly
  • Redness around the face

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

An allergic reaction to flea bites is another common issue in sensitive cats. The saliva of a flea can contain over 15 different possible allergens, which can lead to days of discomfort for your pet.

Flea infestation is at its peak during summer and fall, making this a critical period of caution. If fleas are the cause of allergies in your pet, talk to your veterinarian about a flea prescription medicine.

Common symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis include:

  • Continuously itching and scratching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Possible hair loss

Food Allergies

Common food ingredients, chemicals, or dietary compounds that are in cat food can cause allergic reactions. Food items that are common culprits include wheat, gluten, soy, dairy products, and several different proteins.

Diagnosing a food allergy can be nearly impossible considering many of these food items are found in almost every cat food on the market. This type of allergy may be hard to identify when compared to atopic dermatitis, however, the main difference is that this allergy will be present year-round.

Symptoms that develop from a food allergy include:

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This reaction occurs when an environmental molecule irritates the surface of the skin. In this case, a cat may be hypersensitive to a particular element and will develop symptoms based on the severity. A simple touch from a certain compound can trigger different symptoms after exposure. Metals, medications, plants, fertilizers, fabrics, even soups can all cause irritation and discomfort for your cat.

Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis in cats:

  • Skin may develop a rash or bumps on the area where it was contaminated
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Continuously itching

Diagnosing Allergies in Cats

If you believe your pet may be suffering from one of the allergies listed above, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will want to do a thorough physical examination and refer to your cat’s past medical history. Once a proper diagnosis has been ordered, further testing may be required.

The best way to relieve and treat your cat from their allergy is by removing the source as soon as possible. Depending on the environmental factors that may be causing these allergies, different precautions need to be taken to rid your pet of these symptoms.

If the source of your cat’s allergies is flea bites, a prescription medicine will be needed. In the case of environmental factors such as pollen, dust mites, or grass, routine baths may help alleviate uncomfortable side effects. If symptoms do not get better or become worse, your vet may prescribe an antihistamine or cortisone to lessen the condition.

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