Itchy and Scratchy: Could it be Environmental?
Is your cat itching and scratching? It could be something in their environment and understanding what exactly your cat is allergic to can help you limit their exposure and improve their quality of life.
What is an allergy?
An allergy means that your cat’s immune system has become more sensitive to certain everyday substances and, as a result, has started to identify them as dangerous. Allergens might include pollen, animal dander, mold spores, dust mites and even certain foods. Most of these are found throughout your house or yard, but they are not usually harmful to cats or other animals. However, if your kitty is allergic to any of them, its body will try to rid itself of the offending substance and show moderate to severe adverse reactions in response.
What are the most common allergens found in your home?
Fleas are one of the most common allergic reactions. Cats can also be sensitive to a variety of trees, grasses, weeds, dust mites, storage mites, and pollen. Cats can even be allergic to certain perfumes, air freshners, or cleaning products.
In the case of storage and dust mites, the types of material and food you have in your home could be making your cats allergies worse.
What can the symptoms look like?
Depending on the allergy and your particular cat, symptoms can include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, itchy skin or overgrooming, itchy or runny eyes, sores from excessive scratchy and even gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea.
Unfortunately, these symptoms aren’t limited to allergies and you’ll need to run lab work and other diagnostics to rule out other causes including parasites, bacterial or yeast infections, and even some metabolic diseases.
Once other diseases are ruled out, you can test for environmental allergens through blood work. The test is specific to our region and checks for common plants, trees, grasses, molds and mites to determine your cat’s specific allergies. It can be extremely helpful because helping your cat could be as simple as changing your landscaping or removing a particular household product or plant. The panel also checks for reactions to dogs and feathers, which again can be helpful to know especially if you have a dog in the house or all your cat’s toys are feather based!
Based on the results of your cat’s testing, your vet will recommend a treatment plan that may include immunotherapy, anti-histamines or other medications, and environmental remediation. Immunotherapy drops or injections are specifically formulated for your cat’s needs. Anti-histamines and other medications can be helpful to control flare ups or may be used more regularly. Environmental remediation can be a big undertaking but it can help! It might be as simple as removing household plants or landscaping. If your cat is allergic to dust mites, your remediation may include more frequent dusting, laundering your cats bed and blankets more often, and even limiting or removing carpeting. If your cat is allergic to storage mites, placing dry goods like flour, chips or crackers in sealed containers can limit the number in your home.
If your cat suffers from allergies, talk to your vet about whether your cat could benefit from allergy testing. It can be helpful to know what your cat is environmentally allergic to so you can better understand how to control the symptoms and hopefully improve their quality of life.