The Pet Owner's Guide to Cat Allergies
Scratching, sneezing, coughing, wheezing. Your cat is miserable! What causes cat allergies and what can you do to get rid of them?
Believe it or not, allergies are more common in cats than dogs. Cat allergies are an overreaction of a cat's immune system. The cat's immune system overreacts to something not really a threat.
For example, your cat might be allergic to a certain grass in your yard. The grass doesn't actually harm your cat. But, on the inside, a different scenario occurs. On the inside, somehow, a false alarm sounds.
White blood cells sense danger (an allergen) and stimulate histamine release. Histamine dilates capillaries, causing fluid from the blood vessels. The area becomes hot, swollen, puffy, and itchy.
You can stop allergy symptoms by blocking the white blood cells or by blocking histamine. Antihistamines like Benadryl and steroids like Prednisone block histamine. Often, you can often save yourself much aggravation by discovering the cause of your cat's allergies. Knowing the cause, you may be able to make changes and put an end t0 your cat's allergy problems.
The Three Basic Types of Cat Allergies
Cats display many different symptoms and irritation reactions due to allergies. But, allergies fall into three basic categories.
The three basic types of cat allergies are:
- Breathing allergies/asthma
- Food allergies
- Atopy (skin allergies, which includes flea allergies)
Sometimes pet parents mistake food allergies for skin allergies. The symptoms are the same for both: itching, scratching and licking. For example, many cats are allergic to plastic food bowls. Many cats show signs of allergies around the mouth because of a plastic food bowl allergy. Simply switch to metal, glass or ceramic bowls and the allergies are gone!
Of course, it's always best to seek help from your veterinarian for health issues. Diagnosing cat allergies can be difficult. However, if you want help for your cat’s allergies, you first must know the most common causes.
Common Cat Allergy Triggers in Your Home
Many times making small changes in your home can improve your cat's allergies.
Some common allergic triggers are:
- Chemicals in soil or household items
- Cleaners and detergents
- New food
- Plastic dishes
- Flowers and plants
Try changing things up a little and see if your cat gets some relief.
3 Home Remedies for a Cat With Allergies
Would you rather use a home remedy than a pharmaceutical with potential side effects? Home remedies are an option for your cat. Use home remedies alone or to complement natural remedies or pharmaceutical drugs to soothe your itchy cat.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Try adding a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar to your cat’s food. se apple cider vinegar, not distilled white vinegar. Apple cider vinegar contains more nutrients.
Start at ¼ teaspoon added to food twice daily for cats under 12 pounds, and ½ tsp added to food twice daily for cats over 12 pounds. You may increase the amount up to 1 teaspoon per 15 pounds if your cat likes the taste of vinegar. Adding apple cider vinegar to food enhances your cat’s stomach acid content. Having more stomach acid improves digestion and eliminates some food intolerances.
Apple cider vinegar also:
- Maintains your cat’s acid/alkaline balance
- Improves digestion
- Acts as a urinary system tonic
- Clears urinary tract infections.
Ultimately, apple cider vinegar boosts the immune system keeping allergies at bay.
Topically, vinegar treats pustules, hot spots, and other allergic reactions on the skin. Just mix vinegar and water at a ratio of ½ water to ½ vinegar and either spray or dab the mixture onto the problem areas. On light colored cats, use distilled white vinegar because apple cider vinegar may darken the fur.
Pine Bark Extract
Try giving your cat pine bark extract internally as a supplement.
Pine bark extract:
- Is an excellent antioxidant
- Supports the system
- Controls inflammation
- Stops histamine release from mast cells
Mast cells release histamine, which triggers allergic symptoms when an allergen is present. Pine bark extract blocks histamine release, thus decreasing allergic symptoms. Pine bark extract also normalizes immune response by inhibiting Nuclear Factor-Kappa B.
To administer a pine bark extract supplement, give ⅛ to ¼ of the label-recommended human dose to your cat.
Coconut oil works both internally and externally to treat cat allergies. Internally, the coconut oil antioxidant effects help with skin conditions and allergies. Coconut oil also helps a cat’s digestive system better absorb commercial cat food. Just add a small spoonful of coconut oil to each feeding.
Externally, coconut oil treats ear mites, mange, and the symptoms of dry, itchy skin. Some cat owners even claim coconut oil helps keep fleas off their pets. Coconut oil's antioxidant properties soothe allergic sores and broken skin. Coconut oil is also antibacterial and antifungal, preventing bacterial and fungal infections.
The best thing about coconut oil is you don’t have to worry if your cat licks it off his fur or skin. He’s just given himself a nice, healthy internal dose of coconut oil supplement!
In addition to home remedies, there are several herbal remedies for cats with allergies.
Take Care of Cat Food Allergies Today and Clean Up Less Vomit Tomorrow
Aren’t you sick and tired of cleaning up cat vomit? Dr. Teri McGinnis, author of “The Wild Cat” claims "Food allergies may cause vomiting."
She goes on to explain,“Cats with food allergies… may develop vomiting when fed certain diets… The immune system must react to the presence of the food allergen before any signs appear… Proper treatment for cats with food allergies is often more a hit-or-miss proposition.”
Some veterinarians might call food allergies “food intolerance.” However, there is a difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy. A food intolerance is a chemical reaction inside the body, while a food allergy is an immune response.
Besides vomiting, other common clinical signs of food allergies include:
- Flaky skin
- Dry skin
- Weight loss
Food allergies and skin allergies often display the same symptoms. Diagnosing food allergies is sometimes quite difficult. For example, skin conditions are often reflective of food allergies or atopy.
If your cat has skin issues and vomits after eating, then chances are good your cat has food allergies. Most cats don’t vomit with skin or breathing allergies.
Unfortunately, many cats have allergies to both food and things in their environment.
A Hypoallergenic Diet for Cats
If you think your cat has food allergies, what should you do? You should try a hypoallergenic diet for at least four weeks. Any type of diet change can be tough with cats because cats can be finicky and picky. To try a hypoallergenic diet on your cat, you'll need to switch to a homemade diet.
The hypoallergenic diet may consist of a single protein source your cat has never eaten before. The protein source should be free of additives and preservatives.
Some examples are:
- A diet of all turkey or chicken
- A diet of lamb baby food
- Baby food rice cereal
You can feed any of the above for a short time without causing nutritional deficiency. Try one of the above choices for four weeks and see what happens.
If your cat’s symptoms start to go away, guess what? Your cat has food allergies.
Then what should you do?
If you had a positive response from the diet trial, then your cat will do better on a limited ingredient diet.
You have several choices:
- Stay on a home cooked diet. Make sure you get professional help to ensure the diet is nutritionally balanced.
- Use a prepackaged limited ingredient diet
- Try a different commercial diet
Your veterinarian or a specialty pet food store can help you find a variety of prepackaged limited ingredient and low antigen diet formulas. Cleaning up less vomit makes life a whole lot easier!
Complete the following action items, and you'll be well on your way down the path to better health for your pet!
- Learn more about cat allergies, cat allergy remedies, and cat allergy diets by downloading our free ebook: "Cat Allergies 101: How to Stop the Itching, Scratching and Throwing Up."
- Switch from plastic food and water bowls to metal, glass or ceramic bowls.
- Make sure your cat doesn't have fleas. If you are not sure, have your vet help you check!
- Wash your pet's bedding in hot water every week.
- Try a natural remedy. It might work!
- Try keeping a food diary or try feeding a limited ingredient diet.
- Always consult with your veterinarian before making changes to your cat's diet and exercise routine.