Allergies are caused by the individual having an abnormal or inappropriate reaction to something that the majority would not normally be bothered by.

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding allergies in humans and possible treatments but what about pets? It is definitely the case with cat allergy too.

There are several possible causes of allergies in cats:

Insects

Cat allergy

The most common cause of skin irritation in cats is one that we are all too aware of – fleas. To be more exact, it is the flea saliva that causes the problem. It only takes one flea bite to bring on an allergic reaction which can include scratching constantly, maybe with loss of fur; licking the fur, especially around the rump area; red lumps around the neck and back that are really itchy.

If the cat manages to cause enough damage to his skin by scratching and biting that it allows a skin infection, antibiotics may need to be prescribed and/or treatment with a medicated shampoo.

The most effective way to prevent fleas from biting is to use a regular spot on treatments on the cat and wash his bedding and furnishings to keep them clean and flea-free.

Contact

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Thankfully this type of allergy is much less common. If the cat’s skin comes into contact with certain things such as detergents, medicines, solvents or other chemicals, it can result in dermatitis. Usually in areas where there isn’t much fur, as the fur acts as a barrier in most cases, so ears, toes, chin, and belly are the most common places for this to be found.

Other types of materials that can cause an allergic reaction in a cat if he is particularly sensitive to one of them are some plants, wool (in a blanket for instance) and various medications.

If your vet suspects a sensitivity to something other than fleas, they will need to try to ascertain the substance that seems to be causing the allergy. Several things may be removed from the cat’s usual environment to see if their condition improves and then gradually reintroduced.

Food

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As with humans, cats can be allergic to or intolerant of certain ingredients in their food. The main food culprits for causing an allergic reaction include eggs, milk, beef, fish and wheat.

The cat will most likely be scratching the front part of his body, head, face, and neck; his ears may swell or become infected; some fur may be lost as a result of the scratching; vomiting and/or diarrhea.

If your vet suspects your cat may have a food allergy, he might ask you to keep a food diary for a period, to see if there are any likely indicators. He will probably put your cat on a food trial for several weeks. This must be strictly adhered to and will aim to resolve the symptoms.

As the cat allergy is often caused by food that the cat has eaten for a long time, the trial will most likely be food that the cat hasn’t eaten before so that the usual food clears his digestive system. Then, at the end of the trial and if the cat’s allergies have cleared, the usual food may be reintroduced gradually. If the allergy symptoms return, it can safely be assumed that the cause of the problem has been found.

Inhalant

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For some cats, breathing in particles from dust, pollen or molds can cause an allergic reaction. The symptoms can be similar to those mentioned above – a red, crusty and often very itchy rash around the cat’s head, neck or back; scabs on the face; hair loss.

The other types of cat allergy mentioned here will usually need to be ruled out before testing for an inhalant. It may be that skin scrapings and fungal cultures are required to determine the cause and your vet may also want to do a blood test.

The ideal solution will be to avoid the source of the allergy if that can be defined. Sometimes it is not possible to confirm one specific irritant. If the cat is living in an environment where there is mold or mildew, that can be treated to eliminate it. Pollen is seasonal and, as any human with hay fever knows, it can make life miserable for a certain length of time each year. Whereas we tend to sneeze and have breathing problems, pollen causes a cat to itch.

If this is the likely cause of the cat allergy there are several ways in which it can be treated. Steroids can be prescribed which will effectively block the allergic reaction.

Some allergens are absorbed through the skin so regular use of a moisturizing, the hypoallergenic shampoo may be advised.

In severe cases or where the previous two options are believed unsuitable, a series of injections may be the answer.

Observing your cat’s daily behavior and noticing any changes to it, as well as taking part in regular grooming sessions if he will allow you to, are the best ways to determine if your cat might be suffering an allergy. By discussing any concerns with your vet and understanding the causes and treatments of the cat allergy if one is found, you can help your cat have a better quality of life, free from the symptoms associated with an allergy.

Cavity wall insulation warning

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Research recently conducted by Cavity Wall Lawyers has shown that badly installed cavity wall insulation has been found to be the cause of ill health in UK homeowners – and their pets are affected too.

As a result of the wrongly installed cavity wall insulation, problems such as dampness, insect infestation (e.g.ants), condensation and mold occur.

In a warning to cat owners, Nicky Johnson, Head of Claims at Cavity Wall Lawyers, said: “Many of us will know that mold can make people sick but not many will know about the effects it has on our cats. As they’re much smaller than us, cats are more susceptible to mold-related illnesses and can become sick well before the mold affects a person.”

Common symptoms of mold exposure in cats to watch out for are:

  • Excessive scratching in the absence of fleas
  • Sores and/or bleeding from excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Hair loss due to excessive
  • scratching and/or licking
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Weepy eyes
  • Labored breathing
  • Wheezing sound when breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy