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Cats can have allergies too

Is this the first time you’ve seen your cat grooming itself obsessively or is it a recurring condition that seems to be getting worse? The answer could be an allergic reaction.

Can cats have allergies too?

It's not hard to live with a happy cat in your home if you maintain a regular routine of healthy food, LOTS of love, games, and make sure worms, fleas, ticks and other pests don't become…well, a pest. So when your cat shows signs of being less than happy-go-lucky, it may be time to understand what could be happening. For example, is this the first time you’ve seen your cat grooming itself obsessively or is it a recurring condition that seems to be getting worse? The answer could be an allergic reaction.

Animals like people have an immune system, which is necessary to build resistance to a wide variety of irritating substances, viruses, and bacteria. Although the immune system will try to protect the body by sending histamines to attack specific allergens, it can sometimes overreact to  harmless irritants such as insect bites, dust, pollen, or various food ingredients. 

While many allergic symptoms appear to be seasonal because they coincide with spring and summer – a time when many plants are in bloom and their pollen is airborne – other symptoms may point to more entrenched problems, such as a reaction to chicken in a particular type of food. The key is to consult your vet, as soon as possible, to avoid your cat becoming distressed. Because even though allergies can’t be cured, they can be effectively managed or controlled. 

How is your cat behaving?

Although cats can display signs of allergy such as coughing, vomiting, ingesting more hairballs, wheezing or diarrhoea, most allergies in cats manifest themselves with skin-related symptoms, such as constant itching, non-stop grooming, inflammation of the skin, and pustules. Sometimes the symptoms are so severe that your cat may become agitated. 

Often a secondary bacterial or yeast infection will appear as a result of biting and breaking the skin, leading to ear infections, more skin wounds, and a strong yeasty smell on the skin. And even though most allergic symptoms in cats are reactions to insects and/or external parasites (especially fleas), they are also susceptible to other allergens:

Flea and insect allergies

Many cats have a strong reaction to bites by fleas, mosquitoes, mites, and lice. This will manifest itself as an all-over-body itch that could also be isolated to areas around the ears, neck and groin. Hair loss may be a secondary reaction to the licking and scratching. If the allergy goes untreated it could evolve into military dermatitisin which you’ll find small bumps and scabs along the cat’s back, and around the head and neck.

Atopic (Inhalant) allergies:

Atopy is a genetic predisposition to hypersensitivity of one or more allergens in the air. Symptoms include intense itching, licking, chewing and biting, which often leads to hair loss at the base of the tail, underbelly, feet, and ears. Cats with atopic allergies are also predisposed to developing ear infections manifested in swelling, redness, strong odour, and excess wax. 

Food allergies:

The true prevalence of these allergies is unknown, but may account for 10-20% of all cat allergies. The key feature of food allergy is chronic itchiness and the other skin problems described earlier. For the most part, cats are allergic to ingredients such as chicken, fish, beef, corn, soy, dairy products, and wheat gluten. However, a food intolerance, which is another matter, will result in vomiting and diarrhoea, without other signs we associate with allergies. Sometimes your cat may react to a drug prescribed by your vet, such as neomycin, which means there might be swelling of the eyelids, an itchy face, and hives.

Bacterial allergies:

More often than not these allergies are a secondary problem to a skin problem, and the most common organism present is staphylococci. Visible signs include red blotchy skin with small formations that look like ringworm. If you can also see pus and hair loss, it’s probably from aggressive scratching. 

Contact allergies:

As the name implies, these allergic reactions occur when your cat’s skin comes into contact with allergens in flea powders, shampoos, wool, carpet dyes or substances like synthetic fibres, plastics, and various types of plants. The allergic reaction happens when repeated contact causes hypersensitivity over time eventually revealing itself in symptoms such as itchiness, red bumps, and overall inflammation of the skin.

Mosquito-bite hypersensitivity:

This overreaction to mosquito bites will result in scabs and ulcers mostly on the ears and nose and, in time, may develop into hair loss and changes in skin pigmentation. You may also notice the pads of their feet will thicken appearing swollen and tender.

Avoiding a serious health problem

Think of how uncomfortable and irritated you’ve felt in the past when you’ve had a reaction to something that’s either made your eyes itchy and runny, or made you sneeze uncontrollably. Perhaps it may bring you closer to understanding the powerful impact an allergy can have on your cat’s comfort and wellbeing. 

For this reason, you should act quickly if you suspect an allergic reaction by taking your cat to the vet. This is important because it is critical for a vet to test and diagnose the actual problem. A vet visit can help avoid more serious health problems resulting from secondary infections, which would put more stress on your cat, and other health issues such as depression. Your vet is the most qualified person to determine the next course of action, whether it is a modified diet, corticosteroids or topical creams. 

Got a pet health question?

If you have a question on anything from parasites to pet health, ask us we don't bite!

Call The Advantage Pet Care Line on 1800 678 368.

Advocate for Cats

Advocate not only treats parasite infections, but monthly treatment can help protect your cat against fleas, heartworm and gastrointestinal worms.
Treats
Fleas, Worms

Cat Grooming

Cats love to groom. Give them a helping hand.

- ↓ -
Got a pet health question?

If you have a question on anything from parasites to pet health, ask us we don't bite!

Call The Advantage Pet Care Line on 1800 678 368.

Advocate for Cats

Advocate not only treats parasite infections, but monthly treatment can help protect your cat against fleas, heartworm and gastrointestinal worms. Treats
Fleas, Worms

Cat Grooming

- ↓ -

Cats love to groom. Give them a helping hand.