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Allergies in cats - An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to foreign substances. The symptoms to an allergic reaction can manifest itself in three different ways. The most common reaction is itching which can be localized in a specific area or over the whole body. Another common symptom can involve the respiration system causing sneezing, coughing, or wheezing. With this type there may be a nasal or eye discharge associated with this. The third type of symptom may manifest itself in the digestive tract causing vomiting or diarrhea.
Allergies in cats can be separated into four types: contact, flea, food and inhalant.
Contact allergies are the least common of the four types. One that I have seen are allergic reactions to flea collars. Some types of bedding such as wool might cause contact allergies in cats. If the cat is allergic to such substances, there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact. Removal of the contact irritant solves the problem.
Both cats and dogs can develop severe allergies to flea bites. Normal reactions to flea bites cause only minor irritations, often without even itching. Cats that are allergic to fleas have a severe itching reaction that can cause removal of large amounts of hair. There will often be sores and scabs on the skin which can cause secondary bacterial infections.
The most important treatment is the get rid of the fleas. The topical one spot flea treatments are the best. These are given once a month though I have seen vets recommend the one spot treatments twice a month on dogs with flea allergies.
The inhalant allergies are the most common types of allergies in cats. Just like humans, cats can be allergic to the same inhaled allergens that affect us. These types of allergens include tree pollens, grass pollens, weed pollens, mold, mildew, and dust mites. Many of these allergens are seasonal, and can affect people and cats during the spring and summer months. However many stick around all the time like molds, mildew, and house dust mites. The reaction to inhalant allergies are severe generalized itching. If the allergy is seasonal than itching may only last a few weeks. If the allergens are present year around the cat may itch constantly.
There are typically two types of treatments for cat allergies. Steroids and antihistamines can be used and will greatly block the allergic reactions. The side effects of steroids on cats are much less than that on people. The second type of treatment is hypoallergenic shampoo. Bathing can remove allergens from the skin and provide temporary relief from itching.
There are two types of reactions that your cat can have from food, food intolerance and food allergies. Food allergies are true allergies and have the characteristic symptoms associated with allergies such as itching and skin problems. On the other hand food intolerance can result in diarrhea or vomiting. By eliminating the offending agents, both food intolerances and allergies can be eliminated.
The most common food allergies are the common feed proteins such as fish, beef, dairy products, eggs, wheat gluten, corn and lamb. These are the most common ingredients in commercial cat food products. The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of other allergies seen in cats. The most common symptom is itchy skin, which can result in hair lost. From the result of an inflammatory response in the digestion tract, vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.
To determine the specific culprit in the cat’s diet, a food trial can be conducted. A food trail consists of eliminating all foods including snacks and supplements from the cats diet and replacing it with a food source of a particular protein and carbohydrate that the cat has never eaten before. An example would be something like duck and potato, or venison and potato. These types of food are available commercially or can be prepare homemade. It is highly recommended that the food trial last at least 12 weeks. It can take up to six weeks for the allergens from previous foods the cat has eaten to disappear. Experimentation of a food trial can than be performed by adding specific ingredients to observe for allergic reactions. Once the ingredient has been identified, that ingredient can be completely eliminated from the cat’s diet using commercial prescription diets or homemade food. By replacing the old diet with a new one, you can make your kitty happier and healthier.