Can My Cat Get Seasonal Allergies?
The only downside of spring 🤧
Whenever spring rolls around, you might notice your cat starts sneezing a lot more than normal.
Seasonal allergies are pretty common in humans, so you might be wondering if cats can get them, too.
The Dodo reached out to Dr. Lydia Harbour, a veterinary dermatology resident at Dermatology for Animals in Phoenix, to find out more about cat seasonal allergies and what to do if you suspect your cat has them!
Can cats have seasonal allergies?
Like humans, cats can have seasonal allergies — which just means they’re allergic to things in their environment that change with the seasons, like pollen.
“Seasonal allergies are due to airborne pollens and this can vary greatly with regional changes,” Dr. Harbour told The Dodo.
Usually, if a cat has seasonal allergies, she’s allergic to multiple things in her environment — and not just one thing.
“Typically it is not one to two things they are reacting to, but 10-plus environmental allergens,” Dr. Harbour said.
Cat seasonal allergy symptoms
The following signs are good indicators of seasonal allergies in cats.
- Excessive scratching, licking or chewing
- Red patches on skin
- Runny nose
- Swollen eyes
Cat seasonal allergy symptoms are extremely similar to allergy symptoms from other types of allergens, like food or fleas, so it’s important to take your cat to the vet if she’s displaying the above signs to get a proper diagnosis.
How to help a cat with seasonal allergies
The most effective way to treat your cat’s seasonal allergies is with allergy shots — aka allergen specific immunotherapy (ASIT).
Allergy shots work by giving your cat small doses of an allergen so her immune system can build up tolerance over time — until she’s (ideally) no longer allergic.
“A cat receives a series of allergy shots over time with gradually increasing amounts of the allergen to train the immune system to be desensitized to the allergen,” Dr. Sarah Wooten, a small-animal veterinarian from Colorado, told The Dodo.
The first step in immunotherapy is allergy testing.
“Allergy shots require allergy testing (skin testing is best, blood testing is easier and cheaper but not as accurate), from which is made the allergy serum,” Dr. Wooten said.
Though immunotherapy is considered the best way to reduce allergies, it’s not always super effective right away for every cat. While some cats might completely improve, in “others it may be hard to notice actual improvement, but it may be simply preventing progression/worsening of disease over time,” Dr. Harbour said.
Medications for seasonal allergies in cats
A popular prescription medication for cat seasonal allergies is Atopica (aka cyclosporine), which is an immune-modulating medication given in the form of a capsule. “This is the main medication used in cats for their atopic/allergic disease,” Dr. Harbour said.
If your cat is having a really bad allergic reaction, your vet might prescribe steroids, but will avoid using them long-term.
“If severe enough, your veterinarian will prescribe steroids, which has been around for a while and is a ‘tried and true’ anti-itch medication,” Dr. Ruth Lee, a veterinarian at Veterinary Care Group Forest Hills in New York City, told The Dodo. “However, veterinarians try to stay away from long-term steroids or use steroids only for severe cases due to side effects, especially in cats!”
If your cat’s allergy symptoms are mild, you can try an over-the-counter antihistamine medication. (But you should still take your cat to the vet to figure out what’s going on.)
“There are some over-the-counter antihistamines that owners can try for mild signs,” Dr. Lee said. “The most common antihistamine used for cats is chlorpheniramine.”
“However, antihistamines, in general, are considered low efficacy when it comes to the management of allergies, which is why vets usually only reach for them for mild symptoms,” Dr. Lee said.
Dr. Harbour recommends pairing an antihistamine with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, which will help with the skin problems that arise from allergies.
Reduce allergens in the home
You might also want to do a deep clean of your house regularly, which can help remove some of the allergens in your cat’s environment so her reactions aren’t quite so severe.
Make sure to wash all bedding, vacuum your carpets and wipe down all surfaces when cleaning.
An air filter might also help to remove the allergens from your home.
Cat allergies can take the fun out of warmer weather, but by following a treatment plan from your veterinarian, your cat will be back to good health in no time!
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