Allergies in Cats
Itchy, watery eyes. Nasal congestion. Chronic sneezing. These seasonal allergy symptoms strike millions of Americans every year, primarily in the spring and fall. Our pockets overflowing with tissues, we make midnight runs to the drugstore for over-the-counter medications –then sniffle our days away until the pollen, cotton or mold counts have returned to baseline levels. Seasonal allergies are inconvenient at best and miserable at worst –but do you know they can also affect your feline companion? The symptoms of seasonal allergies in cats are actually quite similar to those experienced by humans –including the runny nose, sneezing and watery, itchy eyes.
And much like humans, genetics may play a role in whether a cat will develop an immune sensitivity to common seasonal airborne allergens such as pollen, molds and fungi. Because this sensitivity takes time to develop, your cat may not show any allergy symptoms for the first two years of its life.
Some felines with seasonal allergies present other symptoms, including increased scratching of their face and neck, constant licking of their feet, pawing at ears, hair loss, rash and skin lesions. When these symptoms are present without telltale allergy signs like sneezing, diagnosis can be difficult. The affliction may be mistaken for dermatitis, an infection or insect bites. Food allergies can be mistaken for seasonal allergies in some cats as well.
If you are concerned that your pet is suffering from seasonal allergies, your vet should be able to make a diagnosis. As with humans, skin testing is one method used to determine possible inhalant allergens. The vet will inject different varieties of known allergens subcutaneously and monitor the sites for negative reactions. Skin irritation will appear within five hours of the injection if an allergy is present. Your veterinarian may also use a blood test to diagnose seasonal allergies, as allergy-induced antibodies are often present.
If your vet determines that your cat is indeed suffering from seasonal allergies, he may prescribe prednisone or another steroid to reduce the symptoms. However, these medications can include side effects such as lethargy, immune system suppression and urinary incontinence. Antihistamines are another option. They reduce the allergic reaction and have fewer side effects. However, not every cat will respond to antihistamine treatment. Some vets treat seasonal allergies in cats with immunotherapy. This involves vaccinating the cat with the allergens at regular intervals to build the animal’s immunity. Pet parents often see success within a few months of treatment.
For those who prefer a holistic approach, omega-3 fatty acid supplements or cold-water fish rich in omega-3, such as salmon, trout and sardines, may be helpful. You can also add omega-3 to your pet’s food by drizzling it with krill, salmon, tuna or anchovy oil. Some natural veterinarians also suggest quercetin supplements. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help suppress histamine release. An air purifier may also be helpful in removing the allergens from the air in your home before they have a chance to make you and your kitty miserable.
Do you have a cat with allergies? What method do you use to reduce the symptoms?