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Allergic Dermatitis in Cats

Posted October 21, 2011 in Cat Health

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Skin problems are among the most common troubles for dogs and cats. They can be caused by a variety of factors, one of the most common being allergies. Allergies that affect the skin are grouped together under the term allergic dermatitis.

As with people, our pets can suffer allergies related to the food they eat and the environment they live in. Additionally, they can have an allergic reaction to the bites of fleas and other parasites.

More often than not, allergic reactions in cats affect their skin.

Signs include:

  • Itchy skin, especially around the face and feet
  • Foul odor
  • Red bumps or scaly areas
  • Bumps that resemble acne
  • Darkened skin that feels thicker than usual
  • Thinning or loss of hair
  • Stained fur due to excessive licking
  • Frequent shaking of head

If your cat is scratching incessantly, it's time to visit your veterinarian! He or she will recommend tests to help identify the source of the allergy(-ies). Because itchy skin also can be caused by conditions other than allergies, your veterinarian may want to rule out the other potential causes, such as parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, or systemic diseases.

Tests can include a thorough physical examinatfooion; a parasitic examination; skin tests to rule out fungal, yeast, or bacterial infections; and other tests, such as blood and urine tests, to determine if your pet has a systemic disease.

Once your veterinarian determines that your cat has allergies, the next step will be to find out under which category they fall.

Food allergies
Food allergies are very common, can impact cats of any age, and represent approximately 10% of all allergic conditions. Treatment is straightforward once you’ve identified the ingredients that are causing the allergic reaction. Eliminate these ingredients from your cat’s diet, and the itchiness should disappear.

Environmental allergies
Another common form of allergies is caused by the environment; specifically, allergens your cat either breathes in or absorbs through her skin. In people terms, we call this “hay fever.” Cats may develop allergies when they inhale or come into contact with foreign substances, such as house-dust mites; pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds; and a variety of molds. While allergies often give people runny noses, they usually make cats itchy.

Your itchy pet may benefit from itch-relieving therapies including cool baths, medicated shampoos and conditioners, and soothing sprays. If your cat has mild allergies, she may be treated with antihistamines or fatty acids. More serious cases may require stronger medications or allergy shots.

Flea allergies
Fleas are a common parasite. They feed and live on animals, including cats. Their bites can make cats miserable, causing skin irritation and itchiness. Flea bites can also transmit disease. Fleas are fantastic acrobats and can jump from one animal to another. Therefore, cats that are around flea-infested animals are likely to contract fleas.

To treat flea allergies, the first thing you need to do is to kill the fleas. To do so, treat your cat and his environment with products that kill fleas of all ages—from eggs to adults. For best results, treat all animals in the household. Your veterinarian can suggest a safe method of flea control that is best for all family members.

While there is no way of knowing whether your cat has an allergy until she has a reaction, you can take action quickly to help reduce any side effects. Check your pet often and watch for signs of itching. If you suspect your cat may have skin allergies, contact your veterinarian right away. Early diagnosis and treatment will keep your pet’s symptoms from becoming severe.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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