Itching is the most common sign of allergies in cats and dogs. Allergic dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs after it has been exposed to something to which it is allergic, known as an allergen. The number-one sign of allergies in pets is itching. Cats lick, bite, chew and scratch themselves to the point of self-mutilation. The result is red, raw areas of skin with oozing sores and hair loss.
Allergies are caused by an “allergen”, which is a substance that causes a hypersensitive reaction, which is usually itching. Almost 20 percent of all cats suffer from one or more allergies. Fleas, airborne particles, and foods are the top three causes. Plants with oily leaves, like rubber plants, and certain medications, including Tetracycline and Neomycin, can cause skin eruptions. Various types of kitty litter also cause allergic reactions.
TYPES OF ALLERGIES
* Flea allergies are responsible for up to 90 percent of itching in cats. Cats groom themselves constantly, which often quickly removes all evidence of fleas. Consider fleas first in any itching cat, regardless of whether or not fleas can be found.
* Inhalant allergies are the second most common type of allergy in cats. Atopy, Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis, and Atopic Dermatitis are terms that are used synonymously with Inhalant Allergies. Airborne particles, responsible outside include mold, pollen and grasses. Indoors, tobacco smoke, carpet cleaners and perfumes are common causes. Unlike people with inhalant allergies that sneeze and get a runny nose, the primary sign of these allergies in cats is itching. Occasionally cats wheeze and develop breathing problems. Signs of Atopy often begin with a seasonal pattern that that too coincides with the so-called “hay fever” season for people, but eventually inhalant allergies become a year-round condition. Most cases are inherited and can be controlled but not cured.
* Food allergies are the third most common reason cats itch. Eighty percent of cats with a food allergy have been eating the “adverse” food for over two years before a reaction occurs. Beef, dairy products and fish cause 90 percent of the problems. Itching is the number one sign of a food allergy, with the exception of a “milk intolerance”, which results in diarrhea. Up to one third of cats with food allergies have concurrent flea allergies and/or Inhalant Allergies.
* Excessive grooming behavior
* Small scabs on head, neck and ears or all over body
* Hair loss with or without scabs
* Skin crusts and plaques on head, neck and back
WHAT YOUR VET CAN DO
Determine underlying cause of itching and treat accordingly.
1. Eliminate fleas in Flea Allergies.
2. Certified veterinary skin specialists offer blood and skin testing, which can confirm certain hard to diagnose inhalant allergies.
3. Allergy free dietary trials are often effective for food allergies.
Itching usually resolves when the underlying problem is cured. Unfortunately, many allergies can not be cured but most can be controlled.
Itching may be controlled or relieved with a variety of products.
1. Antihistamines may be effective to relieve itching
2. Vitamin C with Bioflavinoids in high doses has an antihistamine effect and often helps relieve itching. 250 mg of powder 2 to 3 times daily in food.
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplementation
a. Fish Oil
c. Evening Primrose Oil
d. 1/8 teaspoon Salmon oil added to meals.
4. Oatmeal Based Shampoos – Oatmeal may relieve itching and skin irritation up to 72 hours.
5. Witch Hazel is soothing and comes as a spray or lotion; the spray works best in cats.
6. Aloe Vera Gel is available at health food stores. It contains enzymes that reduce skin irritation.
7. Corticosteroids like, prednisone may be the only effective medication to relieve itching in certain cases. Alternative therapies generally reduce the effective dose of corticosteroids needed on a long-term basis. In cats, unlike dogs and people, steroids are tolerated quite well and side effects are minimal.
Graphites 6x – a form of carbon. One pellet on tongue every 4 hours until signs are gone for up to 5 days. Discontinue if no improvement in first 24-hours. Withhold food 10 minutes before and after treatment.
Topical Herbs to reduce itching and skin irritation include:
* Calendula – an herb that can be used topically.
* Comfrey – this herb can be used topically as a rinse to reduce itching. Comfrey contains “allantoin” which promotes healing.
* Chamomile – this herb reduces skin irritation and has antioxidant properties. Can be used topically.