Is your cat staring at you with a certain air of grumpiness? Rather, more than the typical amount of grumpiness? If they’re also excessively licking or scratching themselves, perhaps your cat is feeling itchy and grouchy from a skin allergy.
To give your kitty some much-needed relief, it helps to know what causes cat skin allergies and how to spot them. Read on for the signs and symptoms of cat skin allergies and how to treat them with skincare.
How to Spot Cat Skin Allergies
A cat skin allergy, or feline allergic dermatitis, is any skin condition in cats caused by an allergic reaction. The key to identifying and treating cat dermatitis is to know what to look for. The fluffy fur that makes your cat so cute might also be hiding some pesky nodules and lesions. However, if you’re aware of the common behavioral signs, you’ll be able to spot your cat’s skin allergies early, take them to the vet for allergy testing, and nip their discomfort in the bud.
Here’s what you need to know.
A Tricky Diagnosis
Cat skin allergy treatment starts with a proper diagnosis.
However, the causes of cat skin diseases are often more cryptic than those of dogs, making it difficult to diagnose them as atopic (or due to allergens) right away. Not only is there far less clinical research on cat dermatitis available than dermatitis in dogs, but skin diseases in felines have also been shown to be less site-specific than those on dogs, only contributing more to their diagnostic ambiguity. Dog seasonal allergies are more easily distinguished.
For example, according to Chiara Noli, Vice President of the European College of Veterinary Dermatology:
“A cat scratching the neck may have a flea allergy as well as food allergy, or a cat licking its belly may have a flea allergy, food allergy or atopic dermatitis. To make things even more complicated, in cats there are some clinical manifestations of allergy that may be due to other causes. For example, a “bald belly” may be due to flea allergy or to psychogenic causes, and a linear granuloma may be associated with food allergy or may be hereditary or idiopathic.”
That is all to say that, as tricky as cat skin allergies are to deal with, they’re even trickier to pinpoint.
Identifying the Signs and Symptoms
Due to the trickiness behind feline cat allergies, the best way to see whether a cat has a skin allergy is through the process of elimination.
First, try to spot any of these clinical signs and symptoms:
- Self-inflicted alopecia, or hair loss.
- Eosinophilic plaque, or itchy, round, sometimes oozing, ulcerated plaques found on the thighs or abdomen.
- Miliary dermatitis, or tiny lesions characterized by their crusty texture.
- Eosinophilic granuloma, or firm, raised, linear lesions usually found on the thigh.
- Excessive licking or scratching—no fancy words here; just good ol’ cat stuff (but too much of it).
Should you notice any of these allergic symptoms, take them to the vet and narrow down the causes of these symptoms, which aren’t always environmental allergen or food allergen. Different sources that produce symptoms of cat skin allergies can include:
- Fungal or parasitic causes of pruritus (itchiness in the skin)
- Secondary infections, like a yeast infection or bacterial infection
Only then can you start distinguishing between food or environmental triggers to your cat’s allergy. After that, you can begin your search for a solution.
How to Treat Cat Skin Allergies
Cat skin allergies are chronic and cannot be cured. However, they can be treated. Fortunately, the brilliant minds of the veterinary and pet care world have come up with many reliable solutions to your cat’s itchiness and discomfort.
Here are some of the most common ones you may be considering for your cat:
- If you and your vet are able to successfully identify the offending allergens, simple allergen avoidance is an excellent way to prevent your cat allergy skin rash from being further aggravated. While food and fleas are easy to avoid, environmental allergens might not be.
- In that case, limit your cat’s movement to rooms less susceptible to dust mites and spray any fabric surfaces with benzyl benzoate spray to kill any mites that may be lurking in the shadows.
- A hypoallergenic diet designed carefully by a pet health professional can introduce specific carbohydrates and proteins unfamiliar to your cat to avoid triggering any allergic reactions.
- Symptomatic therapy should supplement more intensive treatments to relieve skin lesions and improve pruritus while you try to target the root cause of the allergies.
- Antimicrobial hydrogel or spray is an excellent topical soothing product that manages hot spots and eases discomfort.
- Anti-inflammatory medication like corticosteroids can help put pruritus in remission and treat other painful symptoms. However, you may want to ask your vet about the side effects associated with corticosteroids.
- Essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 have been shown to strengthen your cat’s outer epidermal layer and better control the spread of pruritus.
Improve Your Cat’s Skin Health Right Meow
With love, care, and diligence, you can get your cat back to normal in no time. While skin allergies can be uncomfortable and even painful, they’re ultimately treatable.
Just remember to:
- Keep a close eye on your itchy furball to make sure they are not aggravating their wounds
- Take your cat for frequent check-ups with your vet
- Stay up-to-date with your treatment plan
If you can nail these three items, you’ll have everything you need to return your cat to purrfect condition!
- Veterinary Practice. Dealing with feline allergic skin disease. https://veterinary-practice.com/article/dealing-with-feline-allergic-skin-disease
- Veterinary Practice. Therapy for feline allergic dermatitis. https://veterinary-practice.com/article/therapy-for-feline-allergic-dermatitis