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What can I give my cat for allergies?

What can I give my cat for allergies?

Cats can develop allergies to various substances that they can touch, inhale, or consume. In this post, our Parrish vets list some common allergies in cats, how you can recognize them, and the treatments available.

Allergies In Cats

Like humans, cats can develop allergies when their bodies become sensitive to something in their environment. As the body's defenses go into 'overdrive,' a range of symptoms can arise. The type of symptoms that manifest depends on the cause of the allergies, which can be categorized into three main types: environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis), flea allergies, and food allergies. It's not unusual for cats to have more than one allergy at a time, so your cat should visit your primary vet or veterinary dermatologist for an examination and diagnosis.

Causes & Types of Allergies In Cats

While there are many allergens that can trigger a reaction in cats, there are some commonly seen types in cats that can affect their respiratory, dermatological, and gastrointestinal health. We have listed a few of them here:

Environmental Allergies (Atopic Dermatitis) In Cats

Some of the most common causes of allergies in cats are environmental in nature – pollen, fungi, mold, dust, grass, and weeds can trigger an allergic reaction that affects a cat's breathing or causes itchy skin dermatitis. Our feline companions can also be allergic to indoor allergens such as perfume, smoke, certain cleaning products, some types of flea-control products, prescription drugs, and several kinds of kitty litter.

Flea Allergies

Cats can be allergic to a variety of insect bites and stings, despite the common misconception that they are only allergic to fleas. Cats can have an exaggerated inflammatory response to bites and stings from insects such as blackflies, horseflies, mosquitoes, ants, ticks, spiders, bees, wasps, and, of course, fleas, just as humans can.

Cats that have a severe allergic reaction can become extremely itchy from just a single flea bite, which can result in aggressive itching and scratching. This can cut or damage the skin, putting your pet at greater risk of infection and a cycle of further itchiness and skin wounds.

Food Allergies

Certain foods or meal ingredients can also cause an allergic reaction in cats. Beef, dairy, wheat, and chicken are common culprits found in commercial cat food products. Your veterinarian can assist you in determining which foods or ingredients may be causing your cat's allergies and developing the best treatment plan for him.

Symptoms & Signs Of Allergies In Cats

If your cat is allergic to a substance or has a condition causing allergies, they may exhibit some of these symptoms:

  • Watery or runny, itchy eyes
  • Loss of fur and itchy, inflamed, red, crusty, or dry skin
  • Over-grooming
  • Gastrointestinal troubles (e.g. vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Respiratory symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and wheezing (especially prevalent in cats with asthma)
  • Snoring (due to throat inflammation)
  • Ear infections
  • Swollen, tender paws
  • Anaphylaxis (rare cases)

If your cat displays signs of an allergic reaction, contact your veterinarian to arrange an appointment. This is especially important if there are respiratory symptoms, as this can swiftly become an emergency.

Diagnosing Cats With Allergies

Your veterinarian will go over your pet's medical history with you before performing a thorough physical examination on your cat. The vet may also require other diagnostic tests such as blood tests and allergy skin tests. If your cat's allergies are related to food, your vet may adjust their diet to try to pinpoint the allergen.

Once your veterinarian has determined the cause or causes behind your cat's allergies, they can recommend effective treatments.

Treating Allergies in Cats

In order to treat your cat, your vet or veterinary specialist will first treat the symptoms (e.g. itching, GI problems) and any secondary conditions or infections. The treatment used for your cat will depend on the underlying cause of their allergies, but could consist of: 

  • Prescription or vet-approved lotions, ointments, ear drops, or eye drops
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory topicals
  • Allergen-specific immunotherapy (a.k.a. allergy shots) for severe cases
  • Prescription dietary supplements
  • Prescription shampoo or ear flushes
  • Corticosteroid therapy (especially for asthmatic cats)
  • Injectable prescription medication

Your veterinarian may also recommend giving your cat over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Claritin (loratadine) to help with your kitty's allergies– but it's imperative to get the correct formulation of the medicines, as versions with decongestants or pain relievers could harm cats. These medications also tend to be less effective than in humans and have side effects like sleepiness or excessive energy.

Home Remedies For Cats That Have Allergies

If your cat has been diagnosed with allergies, there are several measures you can take at home to help lower or eliminate allergic triggers. Some of these steps include:

  • Feed your cat an appropriate diet free of known food allergens
  • Using vet-approved parasite control
  • More frequent cleaning to reduce dust and dirt
  • Use dust-free litter at home
  • Avoid smoking around your cat (particularly if they have asthma)
  • Regularly clean and wash your cat's bedding

Your veterinarian or vet specialist can determine the best course of treatment so your cat can start feeling better, sooner!

What You Should Not Give Your Cat for Allergies

It is important to avoid giving your cat any human medications for allergies, as they can be toxic to cats. Common over-the-counter allergy medications can have serious side effects on felines.

Furthermore, it is best to consult with a veterinarian before giving your cat any new medications or treatments for allergies. Your vet can provide guidance on safe and effective options for managing your cat's allergies, such as prescription medications or hypoallergenic diets. It is crucial to prioritize your cat's health and well-being by following professional advice and avoiding potentially harmful substances. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Do you think your cat may have an allergy? Contact our Parrish veterinary specialists today and schedule an appointment.

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Ellenton Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Parrish companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (941) 776-1100