Allergy means that the body’s immune system overreacts with allergy antibodies to substances in the environment. The most common allergies are airborne allergies, so-called atopic dermatitis, and food allergies. Cats can also develop contact allergies. In some cases, it is not possible to prove exactly what the cat is allergic to.
In cats, excessive licking and grooming is the most common symptom. Cats can lick the fur off their stomachs or get large wounds around their necks and necks.
To diagnose allergies, the veterinarian must weigh up the various symptoms and skin changes and rule out other itchy causes such as parasites or skin infections.
As part of a skin examination, in many cases an allergy test is performed through a spot test or blood test.
The first step is usually to rule out that the cat has a food allergy. This is done by letting the cat eat a so-called “elimination diet”, which means a diet with protein and carbohydrate sources that the cat has not been exposed to so far, for about eight weeks. Hydrolyzed feed is a special feed, which is broken down so that the immune system can not react to the proteins in the feed. This feed is only sold at animal hospitals and animal clinics.
If the pet owner instead chooses a homemade diet, the ingredients must be chosen very carefully and not contain any of what the cat has previously eaten. The elimination diet must be given strictly, which means that the cat must not eat anything other than the selected diet.
During the diet period, the hope is that the skin changes and any ear infections will heal.
To know that the cat really has a food reaction, and that the improvement/healing did not take place due to other treatment, a provocation is performed with the previous feeding. During the provocation, the cat usually gets a reaction within 14 days, but often a reaction is seen already after a few days after the cat has received the food it cannot tolerate.
Treatment for an allergic cat is always individually tailored based on the cat’s symptoms, degree of itching and discomfort and the pet owner’s options. It is important to try to avoid what the cat does not tolerate, especially if it is a food or something that can change in its environment. Medical treatment with tablets or capsules containing cortisone, ciclosporin or other allergy medicines may be necessary. Sometimes it is enough to lubricate or spray cortisone externally.
Fatty acid supplements with omega 3/6 fatty acids are also part of the treatment because the skin barrier is worse on allergic cats and it is important to try to restore this. The fatty acids can also be enriched in feed for allergic animals. The fatty acids have a certain antipruritic effect.
The vast majority of allergic cats work well with proper care and treatment. However, it is important to remember that allergies are a lifelong disease. Therefore, it is important to work closely with the treating veterinarian in order for the cat to receive the best treatment.