What to do for a cat with skin allergies
Medicines for mild allergies are available from pharmacies without a prescription.
But always enquire a pharmacist or GP for advice before starting any new medicine, as they’re not suitable for everyone.
Decongestants can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose caused by an allergic reaction.
They can be taken as tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids.
Do not use them for more than a week at a time, as using them for endless periods can make your symptoms worse.
Antihistamines are the main medicines for allergies.
They can be used:
- as and when you notice the symptoms of an allergic reaction
- to prevent allergic reactions – for example, you may take them in the morning if you own hay fever and you know the pollen count is high that day
Antihistamines can be taken as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye drops or nasal sprays, depending on which part of your body is affected by your allergy.
Lotions and creams
Red and itchy skin caused by an allergic reaction can sometimes be treated with over-the-counter creams and lotions, such as:
- moisturising creams (emollients) to hold the skin moist and protect it from allergens
- calamine lotion to reduce itchiness
- steroids to reduce inflammation
Steroid medicines can assist reduce inflammation caused by an allergic reaction.
They’re available as:
Sprays, drops and feeble steroid creams are available without a prescription.
Stronger creams, inhalers and tablets are available on prescription from a GP.
Immunotherapy may be an option for a little number of people with certain severe and persistent allergies who are unable to control their symptoms using the measures above.
The treatment involves being given occasional little doses of the allergen, either as an injection, or as drops or tablets under the tongue, over the course of several years.
The injection can only be performed in a specialist clinic under the supervision of a doctor, as there’s a little risk of a severe reaction.
The drops or tablets can generally be taken at home.
The purpose of treatment is to help your body get used to the allergen so it does not react to it so severely.
This will not necessarily cure your allergy, but it’ll make it milder and mean you can take less medicine.
Treating severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
Some people with severe allergies may experience life-threatening reactions, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
If you’re at risk of this, you’ll be given special injectors containing a medicine called adrenaline to use in an emergency.
If you develop symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as difficulty breathing, you should inject yourself in the outer thigh before seeking emergency medical assist.
Find out more about treating anaphylaxis
Avoiding exposure to allergens
The best way to hold your symptoms under control is often to avoid the things you’re allergic to, although this is not always practical.
For example, you may be capable to help manage:
- animal allergies by keeping pets exterior as much as possible and washing them regularly
- food allergies by being careful about what you eat
- mould allergies by keeping your home dry and well-ventilated, and dealing with any damp and condensation
- hay fever by staying indoors and avoiding grassy areas when the pollen count is high
- dust mite allergies by using allergy-proof duvets and pillows, and fitting wooden floors rather than carpets
Treating specific allergic conditions
Use the links under to discover information about how specific allergies and related conditions are treated:
Sheet final reviewed: 22 November 2018
Next review due: 22 November 2021
Are You Allergic to Your Pet?
Breathe Easy—You Can Still Hold Your Animal Companion!
Although numerous people own discovered the beneficial effects of caring for a furry friend, the fact remains that roughly 15 to 20% of the population is allergic to animals. The result?
Countless pet parents in unhappy, unhealthy situations—and their beloved pets are the cause! Allergen is the medical term for the actual substance that causes an allergic reaction. Touching or inhaling allergens leads to reactions in allergic individuals. Symptoms can include red, itchy, watery eyes and nose; sneezing; coughing; scratchy or sore throat; itchy skin, and most serious of every, difficulty breathing.
The most common pet allergens are proteins found in their dander (scales of ancient skin that are constantly shed by an animal), saliva, urine and sebaceous cells. Any animal can trigger an allergic response, but cats are the most common culprits.
People can also become allergic to exotic pets such as ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, rabbits and rodents. There is no species or breed to which humans cannot develop allergies.
Fur length and type will not affect or prevent allergies. Certain pets can be less irritating than others to those who suffer from allergies, but that is strictly on an individual basis and cannot be predicted.
Once the diagnosis of a pet allergy is made, a physician will often recommend eliminating the companion animal from the surroundings. Heartbreaking? Yes. Absolutely necessary? Not always. Hold in mind that most people are allergic to several things besides pets, such as dust mites, molds and pollens, every of which can be found in the home.
Allergic symptoms result from the entire cumulative allergen load. That means that if you eliminate some of the other allergens, you may not own to get rid of your pet. (Conversely, should you decide to remove your pet from your home, this may not immediately solve your problems.) You must also be prepared to invest the time and effort needed to decontaminate your home environment, limit future exposure to allergens and discover a physician who will work with you. Read on for helpful tips:
Improving the Immediate Environment
- Vacuum frequently using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter or a disposable electrostatic bag.
Other kinds of bags will permit allergens to blow back out of the vacuum.
- Create an allergen-free room. A bedroom is often the best and most practical choice. By preventing your pet from entering this room, you can ensure at least eight hours of liberty from allergens every night.
It’s a excellent thought to use hypoallergenic bedding and pillow materials.
- Limit fabrics. Allergens collect in rugs, drapes and upholstery, so do your best to limit or eliminate them from your home. If you select to hold some fabrics, steam-clean them regularly. Cotton-covered furniture is the smartest choice, and washable blinds or shades make excellent window treatments. You can also cover your furniture with sheets or blankets which you can remove and wash regularly.
- Install an air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter.
Our modern, energy-efficient homes lock in air that is loaded with allergens, so it’s brilliant to let in some unused air daily.
- Clean the litter box frequently. Use low-dust, perfume-free filler. Clumping litter is a excellent choice.
- Dust regularly. Wiping below the walls will also cut below on allergens.
- Use anti-allergen room sprays. These sprays deactivate allergens, rendering them harmless.
Enquire your allergist for a product recommendation.
- Invest in washable pet bedding and cages that can be cleaned often and easily.
Decontaminating Your Pet
- Wipe your pet with a product formulated to prevent dander from building up and flaking off into the environment. Enquire your veterinarian to propose one that is safe to use on animals who groom themselves.
- Bathe your pet at least once a week. Your veterinarian can recommend a shampoo that won’t dry out his skin.
Bathing works to wash off the allergens that accumulate in an animal’s fur.
- Note any symptoms of dermatitis exhibited by your companion animal. Dermatitis often leads to accelerated skin and fur shedding, which will up your allergen exposure.
- Brush or comb your pet frequently. It’s best to do this outdoors, if possible.
(The ASPCA does not recommend keeping cats outdoors, so make certain your feline is leashed if you take him outside.)
Taking Care of Yourself
- Wash your hands after handling your companion animal and before touching your face. The areas around your nose and eyes are particularly sensitive to allergens.
- If possible, own someone other than yourself do the housecleaning, litter box work and pet washing, wiping and brushing. If you must clean the home or change the litter, be certain to wear a dust mask.
- Designate a “pet outfit” from among your most easily washed clothes.
Wear it when playing or cuddling with your companion, and you’ll leave other clothing uncontaminated.
- Find a physician, preferably an allergy specialist, who will make certain that your pet is the cause of your allergies and will assist alleviate your symptoms. Medications and immunotherapy (desensitizing shots) can often permit you and your companion animal to remain together happily ever after.
Studies own shown that food allergies overall are the third most common type of feline allergy, outranked in frequency only by allergies to flea bites and inhaled substances. Although itchy, irritating skin problems are the most common signs of this allergy, an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of affected cats also exhibit gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea.
The itching that typically signals the presence of a food allergy is caused by the eruption of little, pale, fluid-filled lumps on a cat’s skin, which form in response to the presence of an allergen, a substance to which the animal’s system is abnormally sensitive.
“The itching eruptions primarily affect the head and neck area,” says Carolyn McDaniel, VMD, a lecturer in clinical sciences at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “They’re not always in that area, but often enough to serve as a clue that the source is a food allergy.”
In themselves, the aggravating lesions do not pose a significant health hazard.
But the incessant scratching that they immediate may cause secondary skin wounds and a resulting vulnerability to severe bacterial infection. In addition, gastrointestinal problems stemming from a food allergy may own far-reaching systemic implications, including food avoidance that can result in health-compromising weight loss.
The most visible signs of a food allergy—the persistent scratching, the emergence of skin lesions, loss of hair, and a general deterioration of the coat—do not develop overnight.
Instead, they tend to become evident and intensify over extended periods of time—months or even longer—as the animal’s immune system gradually mounts a defense against certain protein and carbohydrate molecules that are present in most standard cat foods. “We don’t know why this allergy develops,” says Dr. McDaniel. “A cat of any age can be affected, and it can happen in a cat that has been on the same diet for years.”
When the signs appear, a cat should get immediate veterinary care.
If a food allergy is indeed suspected, the specific allergen should be identified and removed from the animal’s diet.
After other potential causes of the skin eruptions, such as flea bites, are ruled out and a food allergy is identified as the probable cause of the clinical signs, the next challenge is to identify what precisely in the cat’s diet is responsible for the problem. This process will most effectively be carried out at home by the owner’s introduction of what is termed a “novel” diet, which is based on the fact that most feline food allergies are traceable to the protein or carbohydrate content of an affected animal’s normal fare.
The most commonly used protein sources in cat food include beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and eggs. Since protein is a fundamental component of living cells and is necessary for the proper functioning of an organism, the novel diet must contain protein—but it must be derived from a source to which an affected cat has not been previously exposed, such as venison or kangaroo meat. Since the same holds true for carbohydrates, the vegetables that are frequently used in cat foods—wheat, barley, and corn, for instance—would be excluded from the novel diet and replaced by, for example, potato.
If a cat consumes nothing but the novel diet and water for a period of at least eight to 10 weeks, it is likely that the allergic signs will gradually vanish. In that case, the owner can assume that the allergen was a component of the previous diet. And to identify the specific offending allergen, the owner subsequently reintroduces components of the cat’s original diet one by one and watches carefully for the reemergence of allergic symptoms. If the symptoms recur, they will probably do so within a week or two, in which case the owner will own confirmed at least one source of the allergy.
Through repeated systematic testing—and a lot of patience—it is possible for the owner to pinpoint every dietary ingredients to which a cat is allergic.
Therapy, it follows, requires the permanent exclusion of these ingredients from the cat’s diet.
Fleas remain the most common cause of skin disease in cats, although this is not true in every countries (in some regions fleas are rare), and fleas are not the only cause of pruritus (itchy skin) in cats. Where fleas are not the answer, often a much more detailed and meticulous approach is needed to discover the diagnosis.
In some instances in cats, it can be extremely hard to differentiate between skin disease due to pruritus and skin disease induced by other causes.
For example, in humans and dogs, hair loss is almost always hormonal in origin. However, in cats, hormonal skin disease is so rare as to be virtually non-existent. Hair loss in cats is actually almost always caused by excessive self-grooming due to pruritus — but cats may be ‘secret groomers’ and often we may be unaware that the cat is grooming more frequently or more aggressively.
Severe pruritus and eosinophilic
plaques associated with flea allergy – note matting of the fur with saliva
Manifestations of feline pruritus
Common manifestations of pruritic skin disease in cats include:
- Symmetrical hair loss
- Overt itching, scratching and self-induced skin damage
- ‘Miliary’ dermatitis – this form of skin disease is characterised by the presence of tiny 2-3 mm diameter crusts throughout the body surface.
The skin and jacket may also be greasy and own excessive dandruff
- Eosinophilic granuloma complicated – see eosinophilic granuloma complicated in cats – this is a variety of skin lesions (indolent ulcer that affects the upper lip, and eosinophilic plagues or eosinophilic granulomas that can affect various areas of the body and also the oral cavity. They are generally associated with allergies. Every of these manifestations of pruritus glance completely diverse, but can every be caused by the same things — in most instances the cause is fleas but other parasites and allergies can be involved.
Some cats may own more than one manifestation of disease present simultaneously eg, indolent ulcer and symmetrical hair loss.