Cats are pretty good at hiding their health issues. But when allergies crop up, it can be tough for them to hide excessive itchiness or red puffy eyes. Unfortunately, there’s no forever-cure for the allergies in cats, but there are some steps you can take to remedy their symptoms and discomfort.
Seeking a professional diagnosis is always the best course of action, but as a pet owner, it’s important that you know what to look for and how to categorize potential allergies.
What Are Allergies?
Just like in humans, a cat’s immune system is responsible for defending the body against viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It expunges harmful substances and terminates any infectious organisms that have entered the body. Cat allergies are a result of the immune system going into overdrive in response to something harmful contacting your cat. There are two main types of allergens that commonly affect cats:
- Environmental – This can include seasonal allergies, which you may notice crop up in either spring, summer or fall, and it usually manifests in the form of very itchy skin. Environmental allergies also refer to a variety of household, or outdoor substances, including insects.
- Food – A specific ingredient in your cat’s food may be causing his symptoms. The most common culprits are fish, beef, wheat, and eggs.
This immune response to these allergens are observable through various symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Allergies in Cats
Although the signs and symptoms vary based on the cause, these are the ones you’ll most likely notice:
- Sneezing, wheezing, and coughing
- Itchy, puffy and runny eyes
- General redness in areas where the skin is visible
- Swollen paws
- Itchy skin and excessive scratching
- Itchy back
- Itchy ears or ear infection
- Chewing of skin
How To Treat Your Cat’s Allergies
The first step to helping your kitty get better, is taking him to your vet to make sure that there isn’t a more serious cause. Once you get a definitive allergy diagnosis, your doctor will typically prescribe him medication or a treatment based on the specific underlying cause.
Insects – When insects are the culprit (i.e., fleas), the doctor will usually prescribe medicated shampoos, antibiotics, and topical treatments such as gels that are placed on the back of the neck. If inflammation is excessive, a course of steroids or antihistamines may be issued.
Environmental – If the symptoms are being caused by airborne pollens, chances are that your vet will prescribe cortisone or steroids. Or in serious cases, allergy injections are required to target the actual allergy instead of just masking the symptoms. Antihistamines are often prescribed to work as a preventive method.
Food – In order to diagnose a food allergy, your doctor will provide a special food trial regimen to identify the exact culprit. Once the ingredient is identified, naturally the best course of action is avoiding feeding it to your cat. Be cautious when giving him new foods — always check the ingredients!
More Treatments & Ways To Avoid Cat Allergies
While your vet’s recommendations and prescribed treatments are top priority, there are also some additional steps you can take to prevent allergies. Of course, in all cases, the best remedy is avoiding the substance that’s causing your cat’s discomfort and symptoms.
- Regular flea treatment – Stick to a regimented flea and tick prevention treatment. Especially leading into spring and summer, you might want to visit the vet and have them apply a special gel that is applied to your cat’s skin. It attacks fleas upon contact, and they usually last around 3 months.
- Desensitization therapy – This involves the administering of allergy shots, which over time desensitizes your cat to a particular substance. The only downside is that it can be quite costly, and it’s a long term commitment — up to two years before positive results are seen.
- New medications – Some doctors and veterinary journals have found success with medications that suppress helper T-cells, which in turn reduce inflammation. However, these are relatively new and have less supporting studies, so getting your doctor’s opinion is necessary.
- Household changes – Allergens such as grass, mold, airborne irritants, and fungi are common causes. Some ways to avoid these are by keeping windows closed, replacing air filters, cleaning your pet when coming in from outside, dusting surfaces with a damp cloth, regularly cleaning bedding with hot water, frequently vacuuming, not using plastic food/water bowls, and thoroughly rinsing off cleaning agents from around the house.
With so many various factors at play, it can be hard to figure out exactly what’s causing your cat’s allergy symptoms. Applying some simple changes around the house can make sure your kitty stays healthy and comfortable. But the second you notice allergy symptoms, the first thing you should do is always seek professional advice.