Ask Otis

Dear Otis,

My owner recently took me for my annual exam to see our veterinarian.  My owner was told that I have allergies.  I thought this was rather funny since I don’t understand how I can have allergy issues.  Can you give me some insight on how this happens

Confused in Emmaus


Dear Confused,

Yes, just like humans cats and dogs can get allergies too and treatment varies depending on the type of allergy.

Common causes of skin problems in cats include environmental allergies, food allergies and flea allergies. 

Let’s start with environmental allergies.  Like people cats may develop allergies to grass, mold, pollen, feathers, and house dust.  These allergies are more common in dogs but do occur in cats.  Symptoms include:  Itchy skin, which is indicated by excessive scratching, licking and chewing, Hair loss and patchy red spots on skin. 

Diagnosis of this must be done by your vet to determine what the cause is and what treatment should be prescribed. 

The biggest allergy issue with cats is food allergies.  You would be amazed at what a cat can be allergic to.  Cats do become allergic to specific foods such as dairy products, beef, corn, wheat, soy, eggs, chicken, and fish.  A cat may develop allergy issues to a food that he/she tolerated before. 

Food allergy symptoms include itchy skin and scratching, or excessive grooming to the point of fur loss; red, crusty skin, especially around the face (this symptom can also be caused by an allergic reaction to plastic food dishes) and gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Treatment may involve  blood work to figure out what you are allergic to which is then followed by a hypoallergenic diet.  These diets contain nutritious ingredients such as duck, venison, or certain types of fish that are not commonly found in regular cat food.

Last but not least is flea allergies.  Many cats develop allergies to flea saliva.  Just a single bit of a flea can cause major issues in some cats.  It may be difficult to find actual fleas on cats with this issue since they usually are excessive groomers and remove them through grooming.  Treatment may include medication to ease the itching and a preventive flea control product.

Before your owner assumes anything, an exam by your vet is and was a good idea.  This can be used to rule out other bacterial or fungal infections or medical conditions.


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