What Can I Give My Cat For Allergies?
There’s nothing worse than having an itchy cat.
And if your cat has allergies, there’s probably a lot of itching going down.
So before your allergic cat drives herself (and you!) crazy with all that scratching and licking she’ll do, you might be wondering: What can I do to help her feel better?
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Sarah Wooten, a small animal veterinarian in Colorado, to learn what products vets recommend for cats with allergies who need relief ASAP.
Symptoms of cat allergies
According to Dr. Wooten, here are some signs that your cat has allergies:
- Itching, increased scratching or grooming
- Bald patches
- Ear infections
- Scabs and crusts all over the whole body (aka miliary dermatitis, which is a common symptom associated with flea allergy in cats)
- Swollen face or head
- Increased flatulence, diarrhea or vomiting (common with food allergies)
Keep in mind that these symptoms are very similar to how cats react to a lot of skin and respiratory infections; so sometimes, it might not even be allergies after all.
If you notice these reactions in your cat, it’s best to have her checked out by a veterinarian first. They can tell you exactly what’s causing the symptoms — and most importantly, how to help her!
Cat allergy treatments
“Treatment for allergies depends on the type of allergy that a cat has,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo. Here are some common types of cat allergies and how to treat them.
“If a cat has an allergy to flea bites, then the best thing to do is regularly keep your cat and all other dogs and cats in the household on veterinarian-recommended flea products,” Dr. Wooten said.
And make sure to avoid cheap, generic flea products. If your cat is allergic to fleas, you’ll definitely want something that’s super effective.
If your cat has seasonal allergies, she could be allergic to things like pollen, dust mites and mold. In this case, “talk to your vet about using antihistamines or other FDA-approved allergy medications.” Dr. Wooten said.
Atopica is a commonly prescribed allergy medication for cats.
In severe cases, your veterinarian might also recommend a series of allergy shots to desensitize your cat to the allergen.
Cats can also have an allergy to an ingredient in their food.
The most common allergens in cats are usually proteins, including chicken, beef, pork, dairy and eggs, Dr. Wooten said. Corn and wheat allergens aren’t as common.
If your cat has food allergies, “the treatment is to feed your cat a novel protein or hypoallergenic food for a feeding trial under the supervision of a veterinarian,” Dr. Wooten said.
Your cat might also be allergic to things she comes into contact with around the house or in the yard, like laundry detergent, soap, plants or fertilizers. “If your cat has contact allergies to soaps or laundry detergents, then switch to unscented products,” Dr. Wooten said.
Cat allergy medications
If your cat needs relief fast, you can help her with an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine.
“Antihistamines are the most common OTC option used to help a cat with allergies, and the most common antihistamine used in cats is chlorpheniramine — estimated to help 10 to 50 percent of cats that suffer from allergies,” Dr. Wooten said. “Talk with your vet for a dosage.”
You can also give your cat a supplement regularly to improve her immune system, so she won’t react as badly to allergens. “Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) from fish oil and fatty fish help,” Dr. Wooten said.
Your vet might prescribe an allergy treatment or medication, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Here are some common prescription allergy medications for cats, according to Dr. Wooten.
- Allergy shots (aka immunotherapy) is really the only “cure,” Dr. Wooten said. “Everything else is management.” Allergy shots require allergy testing, from which an allergy serum is made. “Then, 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. Wooten said.
- Atopica (cyclosporine) suppresses the immune system and requires annual blood monitoring.
- Steroids are “cheap and an easy short-term fix; however, they should not be used repeatedly or for long periods of time because they negatively impact the endocrine system,” Dr. Wooten said.
- Gabapentin, a muscle relaxant, has been used.
- Prescription-strength shampoos, lotions, sprays and cream rinses can help with itching.
Reduce allergens in the home
If your cat has allergies to things other than food, the best thing you can do is get rid of some of the allergens in your home.
To do this, Dr. Wooten recommends installing a HEPA filter in your air ducts and using an air purifier.
Also, you should keep your bedding clean. “Washing all bedding weekly with unscented shampoo helps,” Dr. Wooten said. “Also wash any blankets.”
Dealing with your cat’s allergies might seem stressful, but it’s really not all that bad. There are so many different ways to treat the symptoms, and your veterinarian will help you and your cat every step of the way.
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