HEALTH & CARE

How to Treat Cat Allergies: Common Symptoms and Effective Treatments

cat itching
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

If you have ever seen your cat with runny eyes or swollen paws, then you know how distressing cat allergies can be. Cats can also develop allergic reactions, just like humans do. Although it doesn’t happen every day, wouldn’t it be nice if you knew how to treat cat allergies when it does happen?

When the allergy is not severe, cats may show symptoms like scratching or paw chewing. However, in severe cases, symptoms may show as diarrhea, wheezing, or vomiting. Knowing how to recognize when your cat is showing allergic reactions and how to treat them will not only enable you to deal with the problem calmly, but your pet will also be able to get the urgent treatment and relief he/she needs.

In this article, we’ll discuss the various signs and symptoms of cat allergies. We’ll then give you a short list of common cat allergies. We will also discuss how these allergies are usually treated. We’ll also talk about commonly prescribed medications and treatments for cat allergies. Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to naturally treat your pet’s allergies.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

Cats have sensitive skin, and they have a keen sense of smell. This sensitivity is also the reason why cats are prone to allergies. If you see recurring symptoms, it may be that your pet is not afflicted with a medical illness, but rather with an allergy.

Here are some common symptoms you should watch out for.

#1: Itchy Eyes

cat having watery eyes

Eye allergies are quite common in cats. Itchy eyes are usually accompanied by goopy or mucus-like discharge, and sometimes by watery eyes. If your cat’s eyes are itchy, you should also check for redness, irritation, or inflammation in both eyes.

While you’re examining your pet’s eyes, check if the eyeballs look cloudy, which is another sign of eye allergies in cats. Sometimes, however, your cat will already start pawing or scratching at their eyes even before the redness, inflammation, or mucus-like discharge starts showing, so just be on the lookout for this kind of behavior.

See Also: How Do Cats See

#2: Snoring

If your pet doesn’t snore but suddenly starts doing so, and it is accompanied by coughing or sneezing, your pet may be suffering from an inflamed or irritated throat caused by allergies.

In fact, snoring is a common symptom in cats suffering from seasonal allergies. This is usually accompanied by skin irritation and scratching, redness as a sign of irritation in the mouth or chin area as well as around the eyes, and in extreme cases, bald patches.

#3: Excessive Sneezing

cat sneezing

Food allergies and seasonal allergies may cause your cat to sneeze a lot, and this is usually accompanied by wheezing, especially in cats that have asthma.

#4: Wheezing

Wheezing in cats may be caused by something as simple as a hairball. However, when you hear your cat wheezing, you should observe your cat closely as the wheezing may be caused by illnesses like asthma or by allergies. Wheezing as an allergic reaction is often caused by allergens that are inhaled such as pollen or dust.

#5: Excessive Scratching

white cat scratches excessively

Having itchy skin is one of the most common reactions to allergies, not just in humans but also in cats. This can cause your cat to scratch excessively. It can be localized in just one area such as the base of the tail or it could cause a general reaction, in which case your pet will tend to scratch his/her entire body.

When your cat feels itchy all over, he/she may also show signs of excessive grooming. Sometimes your cat may also bite at the fur, which can then lead to bald patches or skin lesions.

#6: Ear Infections and Itchy Ears

Cats that are suffering from food allergies will usually scratch their ears a lot, and their ears may become swollen or inflamed. Ear infections caused by allergies may also develop. When your cat’s outer ears are inflamed, the condition is referred to as otitis externa.

#7: Diarrhea and Vomiting

cat feeling sick

These two symptoms usually go together, especially if the allergy is caused by something that your cat ate.

When your cat is suffering from food allergies, your pet may also show increased bowel movements and loose stools. Flatulence is also a common symptom of food allergies. You should also watch out for poor hair condition or hair loss.

See Also: Best Cat Food for Diarrhea

#8: Other Symptoms

Your cat may show other symptoms of allergies such as paw chewing or swollen paws, pyoderma or bacterial skin infections, plaque, pustules, crusts, and scales on the skin.

Common Cat Allergies

Based on the cause, there are four general types of allergies in cats. Because the cause is different, the symptoms may also vary, and the treatment will depend on what caused the allergy in the first place.

#1: Insect Allergies

flea causing cat's allergy

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or allergies caused by flea bites is the number one cause of insect allergies in cats. One bite is already sufficient for your cat to develop allergic reactions, no thanks to the many allergens contained in flea saliva.

When you see your cat scratching especially around the neck and the base of the tail, or if you see crusty reddish bumps on the skin around the head and neck, the most probable cause is a flea bite allergy.

The first thing you would want to do is to make sure you eliminate the fleas infesting your pet’s environment. Treating your pet’s skin without getting rid of the fleas or the insects that caused the allergic reaction will just mean that the allergic reaction will recur if your pet gets bitten again.

Your local vet may prescribe antibiotics or antihistamines for your pet. Antibiotics are used to combat any possible infections, and antihistamines will help lessen the itching while controlling any inflammation. There are also topical ointments available which you can apply on the affected areas on your cat’s skin.

See Also: Flea Bath for Cats

#2: Atopy or Inhalant Allergies

When your cat breathes in allergens such as mold, mites, pollens, and dust, your cat may develop allergic reactions. Fabrics and milk or dairy products are also known to cause atopy.

The symptoms may be seasonal if the cause is pollen, or it may be non-seasonal, if the cause is environmental such as house dust, in which case, it will affect your cat all year round.

If your cat is fond of going outside your house, the allergy may be caused by grass, weed pollen, and trees. There are also times when atopy is accompanied by food allergies, in which case diagnosing the actual cause or causes of the allergic reaction may get complicated.

Your cat may feel itchy all over and scratch all over his/her body, and you may see red rashes on the back, head, and neck areas, or you may find scabby lesions on your cat’s face. Sometimes, because of the excessive scratching, it may also cause hair loss in the areas where your cat scratched the most.

Unlike insect or food allergies wherein you can remove the allergen from your pet’s environment, it’s not as easy to do when your cat’s allergies are caused by seasonal allergens like pollen.

For atopy, pets are usually given allergy shots, corticosteroids, and sometimes essential fatty acid supplements, but it will depend on your vet’s diagnosis and prescription.

Another way to help cats with atopy would be to place plastic covering over the cat’s sleeping area, which will serve as an isolation tent. Changing furnace filters and using dehumidifiers may also help. If the atopy is caused by house dust, a general cleaning would also certainly help.

See Also: How Much Benadryl Can I Give My Cat

#3: Food Allergies

cat eating an egg

Fish, corn, eggs, soy, lamb, wheat, and beef are some of the most common causes of food allergies in feline pets. However, food allergies are the third most common, after insect allergies and atopy.

If it does happen, it might be best to contact your vet immediately, as the symptoms may be quite distressing for both your pet and you. Food allergies often cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats, accompanied by inflamed and infected ears or, sometimes, hair loss and excessive scratching.

The good thing about food allergies is that once you identify the specific food or ingredient that caused the allergic reaction, you can simply eliminate it from your pet’s diet.

Hence, an elimination diet or a food trial is usually administered to help identify the cause of the allergy. Your vet may also recommend a hypoallergenic diet for your pet.

See Also: Homemade Cat Food

#4: Contact Allergies

Among all types of allergies in cats, contact allergies are considered as the least common. This type of allergy only happens when your cat touches or comes into contact with substances or things that your pet is allergic to.

Normally, however, your pet’s fur protects him/her from allergens by acting as a natural barrier. The good news is that the allergic reaction usually settles down after a few days if your pet no longer has contact with the offending substance or material.

In contact allergies, the most important thing is to find out what it was that your pet came into contact with and to eliminate it from your pet’s environment. You can then give your pet corticosteroids to help with the itching, or you can use topical ointments.

If your cat developed a bacterial infection because of the contact allergy, your vet might prescribe antibiotics. Bathing your pet may also help as some allergens enter your pet’s body through the pores in the skin, so bathing can help get rid of some of the allergens. Just make sure you use a hypoallergenic shampoo.

See Also: DIY Cat Shampoo

Commonly Prescribed Treatments For Allergies in Cats

The number one rule cat parents should know about cat allergies is that the treatment depends on what caused the allergy. So, if your pet had an incident of atopy in the past, and is suffering from insect allergies now, it’s not always advisable to use the same treatment or medication.

#1: Decongestants and Antihistamines

decongestants and antihistamines

As with humans, antihistamine and decongestant prescriptions are commonly administered to cats suffering from allergies, especially when the allergic reaction is caused by dust, pollen, mold, chemicals, or other airborne allergens.

Cats, however, may develop resistance to antihistamines, so if the allergic reaction persists even after three months, make sure to visit your vet again to have the medication changed.

#2: Allergy Shots

This is the most effective long-term solution to allergies in cats. However, before allergy shots are administered, the right diagnosis is necessary to identify the specific allergen. This means that your pet may need to go through a battery of tests like skin test, blood test, and so on.

Allergy shots normally take time before they take effect, so your pet may be given alternative medications to provide short-term relief. Also, note that allergy shots are not effective for food allergies.

#3: Steroids

When your cat’s allergies are severe, your vet may prescribe steroids. These medications can help with food, insect or parasite, and environmental allergens. If you’re worried about the side effects of giving steroid treatments to your cat, there are actually fewer side effects in cats than there are in humans.

Moreover, steroid treatments can help relieve the allergy symptoms by reducing the swelling and itchiness. Steroids are usually used for short-term treatments and are sometimes administered to cats along with antihistamine medications.

#4: Topical Ointments

topical ointment

Topical treatments for allergies in cats may either contain steroids or natural ingredients. These ointments are usually used to relieve itchiness and to heal rashes on your cat’s skin.

#5: Herbal Remedies

For cat parents who prefer using natural treatments for their allergic cats, herbal remedies are an option. Note, however, that cats are naturally carnivorous, which means they’re not built to digest herbs or plant-based foods, supplements, or medications.

Thus, before giving your feline pet any herbal remedies, it’s best to consult your vet first.

#6: Homeopathy

Homeopathic treatments

Homeopathic remedies are considered as an alternative and natural treatment option for your pet. The remedies will vary depending on the symptoms that your cat is experiencing.

Homeopathic treatments, however, should only be given to cats with the guidance of a homeopathic vet since it requires accurate diagnosis and proper formulation of the remedy.

Natural Treatments For Allergies in Cats

Aside from prescription medications that your vet may give your pet, there are also some natural remedies that you can use to help relieve some of the symptoms of cat’s allergies. Here are a few examples.

#1: Chamomile

Chamomile

If your cat is suffering from inflammation due to allergies, you can use chamomile to help with the inflammation. Chamomile also has antiseptic properties, so it’s also a good option for treating cats that have developed infections due to allergies. You can use chamomile as a topical spray.

#2: Oatmeal

oatmeal

An oatmeal soak can give your cat instant relief from inflammation and itching. Oatmeal can also help your pet’s skin to heal, especially if your pet is suffering from lesions and irritated patches.

#3: Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

Simply dilute apple cider vinegar with water and use it as a wash. Apple cider vinegar has antibiotic and antibacterial effects which will help get rid of allergens from your pet’s skin and clean any wounds or lesions your pet may have.

Wrap Up

checking cat's health

Allergies in cats are always are always a major cause for worry but dealing with it doesn’t have to be so stressful. If you know what symptoms to watch out for, you can help keep your cat’s allergies from getting worse.

For cat parents who have dealt with cats with allergies in the past, how was your experience? If you have suggestions for treating cat allergies, please feel free to share them with us. Our next article on how to tell if a cat is in pain may also be of use to you.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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