Allergies are an overreaction to a substance or item that is normally not harmful. The cat`s immune system reacts to the antigen (the substance or item) by disrupting the white blood cells. This, in turn forces the immune system to produce histamine- the histamine then causes the capillaries to dilate which decreases blood flow to the affected areas. The areas then become hot and itchy causing the cat to scratch.
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The 3 most common cat allergies are food allergies, flea allergies, contact allergies and inhalant allergies.
1. Food Allergies
These develop over time after the cat has been fed the same diet repeatedly. Symptoms are scratching around the neck and head, hair loss, diarrhea, flatulence and in the odd case ear infections.
The most common causes of food allergies are:
Treatment in cases of food allergy is to perform a food elimination test trial. The cat will be given a special diet for a few weeks. Once the cat`s diet has stabilized other foods are introduced, one at a time, until the cat exhibits another reaction. This method will take up to 3 months to detect the food which began the issues. All treats must also be withheld until the food causing the reaction has been determined.
2. Flea Allergies
Of all the cat allergies, this is the most common of cat allergies. The allergy is from the flea`s saliva which causes the reaction in the cat and the cat does not need to be infested with fleas before a reaction will appear. Usually the first sign will be at the base of the tail but signs are often found around the head and ears. The cat will show loss of hair from excessive scratching and digging or chewing and licking of the irritated areas. Caution should be shown so that the areas do not become infected.
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Treatment will be either a topical cream or ointment to help sooth the itching and heal the exposed skin aiding in the reducing of infection risk.
3. Inhalant Allergies
These allergies are actually quite common and are caused by an overreaction to airborne particles such as mold, pollen, and dust mites. The reaction normally produces an itching sensation around the cats face, chest, stomach or feet. In cases that are somewhat more serious there are signs of upper respiratory distress, like wheezing or persistent sneezing.
Diagnosing inhalant allergies is more challenging because often the reaction is triggered by several environmental issues at the same time. Several tests may need to be performed such as an intradermal skin test, where allergens are introduced, by injection, to the skin around the eye area. This will allow the veterinarian to narrow down the cause of the hypersensitivity and treat the pet. In more extreme case the cat may require steroid injections to ease the allergic reaction.
Treatment is a steroid injection in severe cases. The cat can be assisted in avoiding exposure by keeping windows and doors closed during pollen season.