Cats are allergic to many of the same things as people, but unlike us, our feline friends usually display symptoms on their skin. From excessive itching, biting or licking to hair loss, skin lesions, scabs and infected wounds, your cat can display a host of unpleasant allergy symptoms. Fortunately, with your vet’s help, you can treat your cat’s dermatitis.
Just like us, cats can suffer from environmental, flea and food allergies, and these allergies cause them to itch. Unfortunately, by the time your feline shows symptoms from his allergy, he has been suffering for some time. One of the first lines of defense against itchy skin is corticosteroids. These anti-inflammatory medicines are prescribed by a vet and can provide your pet with relief from his allergy symptoms until you can get to the root of the problem. However, owners should be wary of the side effects that long-term or excessive steroid use can cause, including problems with your cat’s liver and endocrine system.
Because flea saliva can cause allergic reactions, one of the first actions you should take treat your cat’s dermatitis is to treat him for fleas. Even indoor cats should be treated for fleas for several months to rule these parasites as the source of Kitty’s problems. Likewise, you can try switching your pet’s diet to test for a food allergy that may be the source of his allergies. If your cat’s allergies persist, talk to your vet about visiting a veterinary dermatologist, who can test for allergies with an intradermal, or “pin prick,” skin test and blood work. It will help to provide any information on when and how your cat’s itching began, and how well any treatments worked and for how long. Your veterinarian may have insight about dietary changes or other changes, such as unscented cat litter and household cleaning products, that could help your pet.
Skin disease remains more of a mystery in cats than it does in their canine counterparts, due largely to the fact that many of the skin problems cats face mimic one another. This makes diagnosing skin conditions a problem. Cats may react to several different allergens, making diagnosis difficult. Many pets prefer to bath—and itch—alone, making it difficult for owners to distinguish normal grooming from excessive itching.
Remember, never give your cat an antihistamine or other medication without consulting your vet first.