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How to Prevent Cat Allergies

The itchy nose, sneezing, and coughing that humans experience when allergies attack are some of the same symptoms that an allergic cat may also undergo. The kinds of food you feed your cat to the type of bedding they snooze away on represent a handful of the things that can cause discomfort and medical issues for your feline. Recognizing the four categories of allergies associated with cats and learning how to prevent their occurrence will help your pet better cope with his or her surroundings.

How to Prevent Cat Allergies

Different Types of Cat Allergy

When it comes to allergies, cats face four different categories of adverse reactions that center on fleas, food, inhaled substances, and contact. To explore some of the characteristics of each cat allergy, browse the following explanations:

a) Food Allergy:

It isn’t likely for your cat to come into this world with a food allergy. Most often, a cat will develop an allergy to food items they have eaten for years. In the majority of food allergy cases, it is the protein component (pork, turkey, chicken, or beef) found in cat products that causes unwanted reactions [1]. Some of the signs of a food allergy, such as digestive disorders, respiratory stress, and itching can linger for months until a pet owner realizes testing is needed.

Testing is usually completed through a specialized hypoallergenic diet that your cat must consume for eight to 12 weeks (and sometimes longer) to see results. This is because it takes at least eight weeks to eliminate previous food products out of their system. During this time, it is important to avoid any vitamins, table scraps, or treats. Just one slip will ruin the test results.

Overall, nutritional problems in a cat are pretty uncommon, but when they do take place, a food allergy is generally the culprit. Contrary to popular belief, milk is not always the “cat’s meow,” as cow’s milk is considered the most common food allergy in felines [2].

b) Contact Allergy:

Out of the four types of cat allergies, contact allergies are considered the least common, as they signify a local reaction to the skin. A cat may show an adverse response to their flea collar or certain types of bedding (like wool). If an allergy is present in your cat, they will showcase skin irritation and itching at the points of contact. Removing the offending product or source solves the problem. However, some owners typically face difficulty pinpointing the actual allergen.

c) Flea Allergy:

This type of allergy is common in cats, as normal felines experience minor irritation when bitten by a flea. However, the cat with a flea allergy will display severe itching due to the saliva deposited into the skin. It only takes one bite to send an allergic cat into an intense fit of scratching. Some cats will even chew the location of a flea bite (most often just in front of the tail (or rump) – removing large tracts of hair in the process. Open sores or scabs may develop on the skin, including around the head and neck, where the risk of a secondary bacterial infection arises.

d) Inhalant Allergy:

The most widespread type of cat allergy deals with inhalants in almost the same manner as the substances that affect humans. Common offenders include grass pollens (especially Bermuda); weed pollens (like ragweed); tree pollens (in particular – oak, ash, and cedar); mildew; mold; and the house dust mite. A cat will react to these allergens by displaying severe, generalized itching.

The majority of cats with an inhalant allergy are allergic to more than one allergen. A small number usually causes seasonal itching that can last for a couple of weeks at a time – once or twice per year. A larger number of allergens usually cause a cat to constantly itch throughout the entire year.

Typical Symptoms of Cat Allergy

When in a state of allergy, the immune system of a cat tends to react excessively to the allergens or antigens in their body. A cat may display three different common symptoms or signs:

a) Itching:

Localized (found in one part of the body) or generalized (all over the feline) itching takes place.

b) Respiratory System Problems:

A cat may sneeze, cough, or wheeze in response to an allergy. In some cases, discharge attacks the nasal passages and/or eyes.

c) Digestive System Problems:

A cat may vomit or experience diarrhea when battling an allergy.

Cat Allergy Prevention

To make sure your cat is living a pain-free and comfortable life, it is important to make sure they are not exposed to some of the common triggers that cause cat allergies. A couple of prevention tips include:

a) Flea Control:

One of the most important prevention methods for flea allergies is to obviously keep cats away from fleas. This means following a strict control program that may include keeping cats indoors and choosing effective flea control products.

b) Corticosteroids:

Sometimes, strict flea control is not a possibility. However, a pet owner may rely on cortisone or steroid injections to block the reactions to allergens that some cats possess. Luckily, cats seem to tolerate the use of steroids better than other species of animal.

c) Hypoallergenic Diet:

Instead of testing out different food for your cat’s diet – choose known hypoallergenic supplies to prevent food allergies.

d) Change Bedding:

If you are unsure of the source of your cat’s intense itching – try changing their bedding, as some felines display adverse reactions to certain materials, such as wool.

e) Flea Collars:

Some cats experience an allergic reaction to the type of flea collar their owner has selected. Never fear – a veterinarian can assist you in selecting an appropriate hypoallergenic product.

f) Antigen Injections:

Allergy shots have allowed veterinarians to recognize the source of specific reactions, where small amounts of the antigen are then injected into a cat on a weekly basis. It is the hope that the immune system will reprogram the body to respond less to the allergens that cause problems in the patient. Over time, severe allergic itching decreases in intensity, and in some cats – the symptoms stop completely.

g) Hypoallergenic Shampoo:

Some cats have responded well to hypoallergenic shampoo, which is known to lessen the amount of surface antigen that comes in contact with the body.

h) Make Your Own Cat Food [3]:

Instead of relying on store-bought blends of cat food – consider preparing your own meals for allergic cats. A sample recipe may include two cups of brown rice, two pounds (four cups) of raw lamb or mutton; four teaspoons of bonemeal (or 2,400 milligrams of calcium or 1 1/3 teaspoons of powdered eggshell); ten days worth of complete vitamin-mineral supplement for cats (made without yeast); and two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Vitamin C (in the form of sodium ascorbate powder – 200 to 400 milligrams daily – is served separately.

Resources

[1]  http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/allergies.html
[2] You & Your Cat by David Taylor (pg. 231)
[3] Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard Pitcairn (pg. 230)
[4] http://www.vetary.com

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