Cats also Endure Allergies
Like humans, the occurrence of allergic reactions in pets is increasing. The signs and symptoms of allergic reactions in humans are sneezing, wheezing or respiratory problems. Signs of allergic reactions in pets include skin problems, excessive itching and scratching.
The allergies cats are affected by fall into the three following categories:
- Flea Allergy Dermatitis;
- Atopy; and
- Food Allergy.
It’s also possible that your pet may be affected by more than one type of allergy.
Atopic Allergic Reactions
What is Atopy and what are its indications?
Atopy is also defined as an environmental allergy. It is a sensitivity reaction induced by substances present in air like pollens, moulds, dust mites and animal fur. It commonly affects dogs, but cats can also suffer from it. The incidence of Atopy depends as much upon a pet’s genetic susceptibility as it does to exposure to the allergen itself.
Atopy’s main symptoms include itching around the face, feet, lower abdomen area and tummy. Pollen allergies are seasonal, but allergies caused by moulds, dust mites and dander can affect your cat all year round. The allergic sensation can also cause other skin problems and ear infections. Prolonged scratching can lead to hair loss of that area. Normally the signs can first be noticed between the age of 1 to 3 years and the onset may start to show up from 4 months to 7 years.
Identification of Atopy
Atopy is confirmed by a method of elimination. In the first instance, all the other causes of itching need to be ruled out, e.g. fleas, ticks, mites, lice, bacterial and yeast infections. Food allergy should also be considered in evaluating Atopy. The Veterinarian’s diagnosis also takes into considerations your pet’s medical history, and in particular any other incidences of itching. Skin or serum testing will be performed to determine allergies and diagnose the cause.
Treatment of Atopy
Atopy is a permanent condition, however it can be managed by following these tips:
- Use of anti-itching shampoos, conditioners and medicines.
- Avoid allergens by removing them from the living environment as much as possible.
- Hyosensitization, giving injections to the animal to help their body fight allergens. The responses and effects vary from animal to animal but it can provide relief in 75% of pets suffering from Atopy.
- If pet suffers from mild Atopy during pollen season, than you can use Elizabethan collars and socks to act as physical barriers to prevent itching and scratching.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
What is Flea Allergy Dermatitis and what are its indications?
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), also called Flea Bite Hypersensitivity, is an allergic reaction caused by flea saliva. A single flea bite can initiate this disease causing intense itching. Cats suffering from FAD excessively scratch their necks, sides, tummies, inner thighs and area above the tail. The actions of scratching and brushing are so severe that it results in hair loss. FAD usually causes hot spots or local skin infections. Fleas and flea waste can be found on cats in the form of black spots. Cats suffering from FAD carry fewer fleas due to continuous scratching and licking.
Identification of FAD
Veterinarians diagnose FAD by evaluating the signs which include:
- Scratching on skin;
- Sores; and/or
- Existence of fleas and fleas waste.
A skin test may also be recommended because the symptoms of FAD closely resemble the symptoms of other diseases such as mites and lice attack, parasitic invasion, infections and other ailments that cause itching.
Prevention and Treatment of FAD
Prevention is the best approach when it comes to FAD, and to prevent it you need to help your pet to avoid fleas altogether. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Use insecticides and insect growth regulators to get rid of flea’s infestations;
- Consult your vet to determine which product to use on your pet;
- To reduce the population of fleas inside your home, proper cleaning and vacuuming is recommended; and
- Wash your pet’s bedding and coverings frequently.
As for treatment, corticosteroids, antihistamines and essential fatty acids are prescribed by vets to reduce pain and irritation, and break the itch cycle that can lead to various skin infections. Bathing with warm water and using anti itching shampoo and conditioner can also help. Remember there is no cure for FAD. If infected once, your pet will always be allergic to flea bites, so always be ready to protect him from other associated problems.
What is a Food Allergy and what are its Indications?
Food allergy refers to any allergic reaction caused by an ingredient in your pet’s food. The common allergens are beef, dairy products, cereals like corn, wheat and soya, poultry and eggs. Definitive causes of food allergies are yet to be determined, however allergies are likely caused by changes in your pet’s immunity. Sometimes ingredients are perceived by your pet’s immune system as foreign. Your pet’s immune system then kicks its inflammatory mechanisms into action to fight the intruder.
The general symptoms of food allergy are itching, licking and chewing. Food hypersensitivity is also reported to be associated with skin problems. Some pets may also have diarrhoea and other digestive problems. Symptoms can appear at any age and time.
Identification of Food Allergy
Food allergy can only be detected by having your pet on a hypoallergenic or exclusion diet for a period of about 8 to 12 weeks. These diets comprise of ingredients which the animal has never consumed before. Most of the food allergic reactions are induced by proteins and such exclusion diet comprises on proteins usually fish or duck that are not a part of normal animal food. An exclusion diet comprises of home prepared food, rich in proteins or commercially available hypoallergenic products prescribed by the vet.
If your pet is prone to food allergy then the symptoms should decrease considerably after the exclusion diet has stopped. The result depends on the allergic response of your animal to the newly introduced diet. To make a proper diagnosis for food allergens, give your animal a single protein meal for 1 to 2 weeks at a similar time, keeping an eye on the appearance and worsening of symptoms. If allergies are reported to be positive, remove the component causing it from the diet. Your vet can help with the correct procedure.
Treatment of Food Allergy
The best and the only way to avoid food allergy is by carefully keeping an eye on your animal’s diet, so that it does not reappear. Sometimes your vet may prescribe antihistamine and corticosteroids to combat symptoms.
Skin allergic reactions in pets can also be due to mosquito bites and midges. Similar to a flea allergic reaction, the animal is sensitive to the saliva of the insect injected into the body during biting. Prevention is the best method and it can be achieved by following these simple tips:
- Screen all windows and doors;
- Eliminate all possible breeding places for insects, e.g. stagnant water; and
- Keep your pet indoors during the day, particularly at dawn and sunset when insects are most active.