Like humans, animals can experience allergies from time to time. In particular, domestic cats who spend most of their time indoors can experience seasonal allergies which can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, treat, and prevent.
As a veterinarian, many of my feline clients experience seasonal allergies and during their appointments, I talk with their parents about the causes and symptoms of cat allergies, how to avoid or prevent allergies in your cat, and how you can help relieve the allergies. So, here's what you should know!
What are some common causes of cat allergies?
Allergies occur when the immune system is hypersensitive to commonplace and otherwise harmless substances in the environment, referred to as allergens. An allergic cat's body recognizes these allergens as foreign substances and upregulates inflammation to attack and remove them, leading to the manifestation of symptoms.
In cats, allergies typically fall into one of three categories: flea, environmental, and food.
- Flea allergies: Flea allergies are the most common reason for itchy skin in cats. People are often shocked to hear that scratching may mean fleas, especially if they haven’t seen one. Cats are notoriously good groomers and may have eaten the flea before you’ve had a chance to spot it. Additionally, fleas are tiny and fast making them hard to find.
- Environmental allergies: The second most common reason cats experience allergies are from substances in the environment such as pollen, mold, dander, grass, dust, scented candles, perfume, fabric, etc.
- Food allergies: A bit less common, but cats can be allergic to foods, too. In almost all cases, it is the protein within the food that causes an allergic reaction. Beef, fish, chicken, and dairy products are the most common food allergens in cats.
What are some allergy symptoms in cats?
The symptoms that can develop from these allergens are your cat’s way of reacting to foreign substances and trying to remove them from the body.
Common symptoms of feline allergies may include:
- Itchy skin
- Excessive grooming
- Scratching around the neck
- Red, itchy ears
- Red, swollen paws
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Weight loss
Cats may have one or more of these symptoms if they are experiencing allergies. Typically, flea and environmental allergies will result in skin health issues, while a food allergy will result in gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and vomiting.
I think my cat has allergies... now what?
If you suspect your cat has allergies, make an appointment with your veterinarian to confirm. Even if you’re fairly certain you have an allergic cat, your veterinary team can help you identify the cause of allergy or allergies so they can be more effectively treated and managed.
By knowing what type of allergy your cat suffers from, whether seasonally or not, you’ll be able to better treat the symptoms.
If the allergy is flea-related or manifests as a skin health issue, an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement, like Zesty Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, can help provide support for skin health and sensitive skin.
For cats affected by environmental allergens, maintaining a clean, dust-free home is critical.
The house should also be well ventilated and air filters should be changed regularly. Having an air purifier in the house can also help. Fabrics, such as their bedding or furniture they lounge on, should also be vacuumed and/or washed regularly.
If your cat is showing signs of respiratory symptoms caused by allergies, a lysine supplement can be helpful. Lysine is an amino acid that helps to support a cat’s healthy immune system. Zesty Paws Lysine Immune Bites combine lysine with astragalus root powder for enhanced immune response for added support.
Avoiding food allergens is a bit more straightforward. After your cat has undergone a diet trial, you’ll be able to pinpoint which proteins cause an allergic response and avoid during feeding.
Supplements like the ones listed above are not meant to replace any medications or treatments your allergic cat needs; however, they may help other therapies work even better. While it’s not fun seeing your furry baby struggle with allergies, there are plenty of solutions to get them through this ruff time. If your cat’s symptoms become worse, contact a veterinarian who can help you create the best treatment plan for your cat.
Comment below with any other questions you may have!