What to do about allergies to cats

For people with a cat allergy, avoidance of cats is the mainstay of therapy. However, cat owners may not desire to part with their pets, despite the symptoms they endure.

Allergy medications may control symptoms, but in numerous instances, symptoms may persist if the person lives with one or more indoor cats. Allergy shots may also be a treatment option for people who are allergic to their own pet cats.

There are some ways to decrease cat allergen exposure for cat owners:

  1. Have cats stay exterior, in the garage, or in a part of the home with an uncarpeted floor
  2. Keep the cats away from air vents to the bedroom
  3. Vacuum frequently with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) equipped vacuum cleaner
  4. Ensure the cat is neutered
  5. Use a HEPA room air cleaner for use in the bedroom and/or other parts of the home (it is best to hold the HEPA filter off of the floor to avoid stirring up more dust)
  6. Bath the cat at least once or twice a week
  7. Keep the cat away from the bedroom and the bedroom door
  8. Wipe the cat with a wet cloth or hand towel daily
  9. Follow home dust mite avoidance precautions

If the above measures do not assist to reduce allergic symptoms, you may need to remove your pet cats from your home.

This is especially significant if you or someone in your home has uncontrolled asthma.

Cat dander will persist for months in the home even if the cat is gone – therefore it is significant to clean thoroughly.

  1. Vacuum every hard floors
  2. Wipe below every hard surfaces and furniture
  3. Launder or dry clean every bedding and curtains
  4. Steam clean every carpets and upholstered furniture
  5. Replace any air conditioner and heater vent filters

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You may be disappointed to discover that you own a cat allergy. Parting with a beloved cat can be unhappy. There own been some suggestions that hypoallergenic cats may be available, but this concept has not been proven.

Some experts own suggested vaccinating cats tor feeding them a certain diet to reduce allergic reactions in owners. These are new strategies that are not widely used.

Keep in mind that even if you are allergic to one cat, you might not be allergic to every of them.

What to do about allergies to cats

And numerous other pets might not trigger an allergy for you—such as dogs, bunnies, birds, and fish.

You can develop a psychological aversion to being around a cat if you tend to own allergic symptoms after your cat encounters.

Cat dander is a common cause of allergic asthma, and cat owners who are allergic to cats are more prone to the development of asthma symptoms.

While it is not common, you could own an allergy to cat food or to material in the cat's littler box, rather than an allergy to the cat.

Hold this in mind when you are observing your reactions and when you get tested.

Like people, our feline friends can develop allergies. This happens when their immune systems become sensitive to substances present in their surroundings. Known as allergens, these irritating substances may not annoy you or other animals in your home, but as your cat’s body tries to get rid of the offending substances, he might show every kinds of symptoms.

Because there is such a wide variety of allergens, cat allergies are generally divided into 3 main categories: flea allergy, environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis), and food allergy.

Flea allergy and environmental allergies – the ones that cause “hay fever” symptoms in humans – are the most common. However, cats often own multiple allergies, so a thorough examination by your veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist is recommended.

Symptoms
Allergic kitties are often extremely itchy and own skin problems associated with allergic dermatitis. They also might exhibit some of these symptoms:

  1. Vomiting or diarrhea
  2. Ear infections
  3. Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
  4. Sneezing, coughing, and wheezing – especially if the cat has asthma
  5. Itchy, runny eyes
  6. Paw chewing or swollen, sensitive paws

There are a variety of allergens that cause these symptoms:

  1. Household cleaning products
  2. Fleas or flea-control products
  3. Perfumes and colognes
  4. Pollen, grass, plants, mold, mildew, and other organic substances
  5. Prescription drugs
  6. Food
  7. Some cat litters

Gastrointestinal symptoms generally accompany a food allergy, so it is significant to avoid feeding your cat food to which he or she has a known allergy.

Also, allergies tend to be more common among outdoor cats because they are exposed to a wider range of potential allergens, especially from plants and organic matter.

What to do about allergies to cats

Diagnosis
If something appears to be making your kitty miserable, the best thing to do is pay your veterinarian a visit. He or she will initially do a finish history and physical exam for your cat to determine the source of the allergies.

If your vet suspects your cat has allergies, he might desire to act out blood tests or experiment with your kitty’s diet to narrow below the cause. Or, if your vet thinks your cat has a skin allergy, your cat might be referred to a veterinary dermatologist.

Treatment & Prevention
The best way to treat your cat’s allergies is to remove the allergens from his or her environment. For instance, if your cat’s allergies are caused by fleas, using veterinarian-recommended flea and tick preventatives can eliminate the cause. If the problem is cat litter, substituting your normal litter for a dust-free alternative could do the trick. In fact, this might assist correct a bigger problem if your cat’s been missing his or her litter box.

When it comes to pollen, fungus, mold, or dust, bathing your cat a couple of times per week can assist alleviate itching.

Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate shampoo to assist you avoid drying out your cat’s skin.

A diagnosis of food allergies may require you to provide your cat with a prescription diet or even home-cooked meals free of the offending allergens. Your veterinarian will provide recommendations as to the best course of action. It is possible that your cat will need dietary supplements to ensure he gets every the vital nutrients he needs.

What to do about allergies to cats

Medication
Medication is sometimes prescribed for cats in case certain allergens cannot be removed from the environment. Medications include:

  1. Antihistamines as a preventative
  2. Cortisone, steroids or allergy injections for airborne pollens
  3. Flea prevention products

How do allergies affect asthma?
If your cat is allergic to environmental pollutants, it may worsen your cat’s asthma. In this case, your vet may prescribe medications that open your cat’s airway for the short-term; endless term solutions include corticosteroids.

And here’s a excellent reminder: cigarette smoke is bad for your cat, especially if your cat has asthma.

If you own any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Studies own shown that food allergies overall are the third most common type of feline allergy, outranked in frequency only by allergies to flea bites and inhaled substances.

Although itchy, irritating skin problems are the most common signs of this allergy, an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of affected cats also exhibit gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

The itching that typically signals the presence of a food allergy is caused by the eruption of little, pale, fluid-filled lumps on a cat’s skin, which form in response to the presence of an allergen, a substance to which the animal’s system is abnormally sensitive.

“The itching eruptions primarily affect the head and neck area,” says Carolyn McDaniel, VMD, a lecturer in clinical sciences at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “They’re not always in that area, but often enough to serve as a clue that the source is a food allergy.”

In themselves, the aggravating lesions do not pose a significant health hazard. But the incessant scratching that they immediate may cause secondary skin wounds and a resulting vulnerability to severe bacterial infection. In addition, gastrointestinal problems stemming from a food allergy may own far-reaching systemic implications, including food avoidance that can result in health-compromising weight loss.

The most visible signs of a food allergy—the persistent scratching, the emergence of skin lesions, loss of hair, and a general deterioration of the coat—do not develop overnight. Instead, they tend to become evident and intensify over extended periods of time—months or even longer—as the animal’s immune system gradually mounts a defense against certain protein and carbohydrate molecules that are present in most standard cat foods.

“We don’t know why this allergy develops,” says Dr. McDaniel. “A cat of any age can be affected, and it can happen in a cat that has been on the same diet for years.”

When the signs appear, a cat should get immediate veterinary care. If a food allergy is indeed suspected, the specific allergen should be identified and removed from the animal’s diet.

After other potential causes of the skin eruptions, such as flea bites, are ruled out and a food allergy is identified as the probable cause of the clinical signs, the next challenge is to identify what precisely in the cat’s diet is responsible for the problem.

This process will most effectively be carried out at home by the owner’s introduction of what is termed a “novel” diet, which is based on the fact that most feline food allergies are traceable to the protein or carbohydrate content of an affected animal’s normal fare.

The most commonly used protein sources in cat food include beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and eggs. Since protein is a fundamental component of living cells and is necessary for the proper functioning of an organism, the novel diet must contain protein—but it must be derived from a source to which an affected cat has not been previously exposed, such as venison or kangaroo meat.

Since the same holds true for carbohydrates, the vegetables that are frequently used in cat foods—wheat, barley, and corn, for instance—would be excluded from the novel diet and replaced by, for example, potato.

If a cat consumes nothing but the novel diet and water for a period of at least eight to 10 weeks, it is likely that the allergic signs will gradually vanish. In that case, the owner can assume that the allergen was a component of the previous diet.

And to identify the specific offending allergen, the owner subsequently reintroduces components of the cat’s original diet one by one and watches carefully for the reemergence of allergic symptoms. If the symptoms recur, they will probably do so within a week or two, in which case the owner will own confirmed at least one source of the allergy.

Through repeated systematic testing—and a lot of patience—it is possible for the owner to pinpoint every dietary ingredients to which a cat is allergic. Therapy, it follows, requires the permanent exclusion of these ingredients from the cat’s diet.

Cat lovers who sneeze and sniffle around their feline friends might one day discover at least partial relief in a can of cat food.

New research suggests that feeding cats an antibody to the major allergy-causing protein in cats renders some of the protein, called Fel d1, unrecognizable to the human immune system, reducing an allergic response.

After cats were fed the antibody for 10 weeks, the quantity of athletic Fel d1 protein on the cats’ hair dropped by 47 percent on average, researchers from pet food–maker Nestlé Purina report in the June Immunity, Inflammation and Disease.

And in a little pilot study, 11 people allergic to cats experienced substantially reduced nasal symptoms and less itchy, scratchy eyes when exposed in a test chamber to hair from cats fed the antibody diet, compared with cats fed a control diet.

The preliminary findings were presented in Lisbon, Portugal at the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Congress in June.

The Fel d1 protein is produced in cats’ salivary and sebaceous glands. Cats transfer the protein to their hair when they groom by licking themselves and excrete it in their urine.

What to do about allergies to cats

Humans are then exposed to it on cat hair and dander — dead skin — or in the litter box. Cat allergies plague up to 20 percent of people, and Fel d1 is responsible for 95 percent of allergic reactions to cats.

Doctors can’t give humans antibodies orally because the molecules are broken below in the gut and never reach their targets, says Michael Blaiss, executive medical director of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and an allergist and immunologist at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. So Purina’s approach to the cat allergy problem is exciting and unusual, he says.

In cats, the antibody to Fel d1 — which is derived from eggs and added to cat food — has its effect in the mouth, neutralizing the protein in saliva, says Ebenezer Satyaraj, director of molecular nutrition at Purina.

This way, the antibody disables Fel d1 “after its production by the cat, but before it spreads to the cat’s hair and dander — and before a response occurs in an individual sensitized to cat allergens,” says Satyaraj, who is leading the cat allergen research.

Since the role of Fel d1 in cat physiology is unknown, this approach doesn’t interfere with the normal production of Fel d1 by the cat, Satyaraj says. So far, he adds, safety tests own found no harm to cats fed the antibody.

Blaiss expects that the new treatment may assist people with mild cat allergies.

But those with severe symptoms are unlikely to discover relief from cutting the quantity of athletic allergen only in half. Some people can’t tolerate any quantity of the protein without symptoms, he says. What’s more, diverse cats can produce wildly varying amounts of Fel d1 naturally. “So it just depends on the [Fel d1] levels of the cat and the symptomology of the patient,” he says.

In addition, Fel d1 is known to be a “sticky” protein, Blaiss says. It tends to stick around and accumulate in the home over time. So even with feeding a cat the antibody-laced food, “it could just take more time to build to a level that triggers an allergic reaction.”

Purina is not yet offering products containing the antibody, Satyaraj says, but plans further research to determine its effectiveness for reducing cat allergens in the home.


Questions or comments on this article?

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A version of this article appears in the August 31, issue of Science News.

The term cutaneous adverse food reaction (food allergy) is often used to define the food-triggered clinical syndrome of allergic dermatitis, gastrointestinal (GI) signs or both. Food allergies may be responsible for chronic skin and ear disease in both cats and dogs.

Potential allergens can include protein sources (e.g.

chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, soy, dairy, eggs) or carbohydrate sources (e.g. corn, rice, barley, wheat). Some pets can own more than one food allergy. Food allergies often start in pets younger than 1 or older than 7 years of age, but they can be acquired at any time, even when a pet has been eating the same food for months to years.

What does food allergy glance like?

Food-allergic animals generally own nonseasonal pruritus because the source of the problem does not change with the weather or seasons.

About 20% of food-allergic pets also own GI signs such as flatulence, vomiting, diarrhea, noisy intestinal sounds, or defecating more than four to five times a day. Dogs may scratch their face, ears, feet, groin or anal area or develop recurrent skin or ear infections (Figure 1). A frequent presentation includes licking at the anal area in addition to problems with the ears-this is why the condition is often referred to as one that affects “ears and rears.” Cats may overgroom certain areas of the body or the whole body, exhibit intense itching at the face or neck, or develop ear infections.

Figure 1.

Skin infections in a food-allergic cat (top) and dog (bottom). Images courtesy of Judy Seltzer, BVetMed, MRCVS, DACVDThe onset of food allergy can be slow and gradual or more sudden. Clinical signs often continue to progress as endless as the offending allergen is fed.

What to do about allergies to cats

It can take several weeks to months for clinical signs to resolve once the allergenic agent is removed from the animal's diet. Up to 30% of food-allergic pets may own other allergies, such as a flea allergy dermatitis or atopy (environmental allergies). About 50% of food-allergic dogs will not reply favorably to steroids.

Diagnosis and treatment of food allergy

The only precise way to diagnose an animal with a food allergy is to remove all of the currently fed foods and start a strict elimination diet trial.

Available blood and saliva tests are not dependable for diagnosing food allergies in cats and dogs, and skin testing has also been found to be ineffective.

An elimination diet consists of a prescribed home-cooked or prescription therapeutic diet that contains a unique protein and carbohydrate source to which the animal has not previously been exposed. The most common novel protein diets include rabbit and potato, venison and potato, and kangaroo and oats.

Numerous fish and lamb diets are no longer considered novel as these ingredients are more commonly used in over-the-counter (OTC) diets.

Another option is to use a hydrolyzed (low-molecular-weight) diet, also available by prescription. These diets are composed of common ingredients (such as chicken and soy) that own been molecularly altered to be under the allergenic threshold. This alteration prevents the animal's immune system from recognizing the food.

Oh, no, you didn't

Simply changing from one brand of pet food to another does not constitute an allergy diet trial. Several OTC “allergy” or “limited-ingredient” diets are now available in pet stores and online, but they are not always as pure as they claim to be or may own hidden ingredients.

Some pets with food allergies will not get better on a pet store diet.

A little percentage of truly food-allergic animals remain undiagnosed with commercially prepared diets and need to be trialed with a home-cooked diet.

Home-cooked diets. Examples of proteins used in home-cooked diets are tilapia, salmon, duck, rabbit, pork or pinto beans, generally mixed with sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa or barley. A home-cooked diet should be nutritionally balanced. Therefore, recommend that the client consult with a board-certified nutritionist before feeding a home-cooked diet.

Nutritionists are also extremely helpful when an animal has a concurrent disease, such as urinary tract infection, history of bladder stones or irritable bowel disease, and they can work with the primary veterinarian or dermatologist to formulate an appropriate diet. Websites including and own also been helpful in formulating home-cooked diets for a trial.

Therapeutic diets. Veterinary dermatologists often prescribe therapeutic diets from Royal Canin, Hill's and Purina for use in elimination trials.

In addition, Rayne Clinical Nutrition makes rabbit, kangaroo and pork diets for dogs and cats that are less processed than dry kibble or canned foods. Selecting a diet will depend on your patient's diet history. Furthermore, some cats and dogs will require a wet food to assist ister medications, and some owners are adamant about having treats to feed their pet. Knowing the needs of your patient and client will assist in choosing the most appropriate diet for your patient.

Did we mention elimination diet trials are strict?

Emphasizing to clients that absolutely no other food products or treats should be given during an elimination diet trial is imperative.

The pet should be allowed to consume only the prescribed diet, associated treats and water.

What to do about allergies to cats

Pets in an elimination trial cannot have:

Table food

Rawhides, pig ears, bones or other chew toys made with animal products

Supplemental fatty acids

Parasite preventives, medications or toothpastes with added flavor

Treats used to ister medications (e.g. peanut butter, cream cheese, lunch meat, pill pockets).

Regardless of which elimination diet is selected, it should be introduced gradually over a five- to seven-day period. This is extremely significant as some animals may develop GI problems if their diet is changed suddenly.

Most pets adapt to the new diet well, but some need time to adjust. If the pet doesn't adjust to the new diet within a week or two or refuses multiple therapeutic diets, a home-cooked diet can be formulated with the assist of a veterinary nutritionist. To formulate the best possible plan for your patient, it is also significant to take into consideration challenges such as households with multiple pets or little children.

The elimination trial should continue for at least eight to 12 weeks and a minimum of one month beyond resolution of a skin infection.

The pet should be rechecked frequently to assess the progress and results of the diet trial. Rechecks may be more frequent if the pet is being treated for an athletic infection.

If the pet has a food allergy, we expect to see at least a 50% reduction in licking, scratching, chewing or other dermatologic signs. This may happen within the first four weeks for some animals; in others the response may take up to 12 weeks. Cats may need to be on the elimination diet for three to four months before a food allergy is confirmed.

The diet challenge

To prove that a food allergy is responsible for a pet's condition, a diet challenge is typically performed.

This involves reintroducing the original diet, or ingredients from the original diet, to see if the pet has any reaction. In the food-allergic pet, clinical signs will generally worsen within hours to two weeks. If an adverse reaction occurs, resume the elimination diet exclusively. Once the flare-up is resolved, reintroduce individual ingredients from the previous diet one at a time to identify the specific cause.

Beyond proving the food allergy diagnosis precise, a food challenge helps to determine which specific foods or treats should be avoided and to identify an OTC diet that the pet can tolerate.

If we can determine the ingredient causing the problem, we can manage the condition by eliminating the offending food(s) from the pet's diet for life.

Keep in mind, however, that this may not always be possible. Some patients may need to remain on a therapeutic or home-cooked diet for life. Feeding a therapeutic diet long-term will not harm a pet because these diets are well balanced. Therapeutic diets tend to be more expensive than OTC diets, however, and numerous owners prefer to feed a commercial diet.

Prognosis

As with other types of allergies, there is no cure for food allergy.

What's more, animals can develop new food allergies over time. However, if a food allergy is the sole cause of a pet's skin or ear problems, identifying and eliminating the protein(s) or carbohydrate(s) causing the allergy may significantly increase the pet's quality of life and reduce or prevent skin and ear problems in the future.

As noted earlier, pets with an allergy to food ingredients are at higher risk for developing other allergies such as atopic dermatitis or flea allergy dermatitis. To hold under an animal's itch threshold, every food-allergic pets should be maintained with strict flea control and monitored for secondary skin infections and itching.

Dr.

Judy Seltzer graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London and completed her residency in dermatology at the University of Florida. She has been working in her home state of New York since , currently at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in New York City. She and her husband own a little girl and four cats and enjoy traveling, drop festivals, winter activities and dining out.


Causes

You don't need to own shut contact with a cat to develop allergic symptoms. Some people can own the effects of a cat allergy after coming into contact with fabric, such as a blanket or clothing, that was touched by a cat. And you may even develop symptoms from breathing air in an area where a cat lives.

Cat allergies are triggered by cat hair, skin, saliva, sweat, urine, blood, and dander. Cat dander is a tiny material shed by cats.

The dander is airborne and sticky. The size of the cat dander particles is extremely small and it is inhaled deep into the lungs.

Dander can be present in public places, even where there are no cats—because it can be carried on the clothing of people who own cats and then shed in public places.

Allergens

Allergens are harmless substances that trigger an allergic reaction. Several proteins that are produced by cats, including Fel d 1, Fel d 4, and albumin own been identified as cat allergens. These allergens trigger a rapid immune reaction mediated by an antibody called IgE.

What to do about allergies to cats

The IgE antibody rapidly activates an inflammatory response that produces the symptoms of a cat allergy.

Cat allergens are produced in large amounts and are extremely potent. Cat allergens are partially under hormonal control. They are particularly prominent in male non-neutered cats.

Cats generally are not bathed, and they use their own saliva to groom and clean themselves. This can spread the allergen if it is present in the cat's saliva.

Infections Caused by Cats

A parasitic infection caused byToxoplasma gondii (T.

gondii) is spread by cat feces. This parasite is extremely dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause birth defects.

Infections caused by cats are diverse than allergies.

An Overview of Toxoplasmosis


Symptoms

You can experience symptoms of a cat allergy correct when you enter into a room or home where a cat lives. Or the effects can start after you spend several hours in the area or with the cat.

A cat allergy can produce upper respiratory symptoms or may affect your skin.

Common effects f a cat allergy can include:

  1. Sore throat
  2. Coughing
  3. A runny or stuffy nose
  4. Sneezing
  5. A skin rash, redness, or itching
  6. Red, itchy, or watery eyes
  7. Wheezing

Complications

While it is rare, swelling of the face, throat, or any part of the body can develop due to a cat allergy. If you develop swelling or become short of breath, seek medical attention immediately.

Cat Interactions

Cat allergies are more common than dog allergies, but this does not own anything to do with how friendly the cat or the person is.

Cat allergies are not associated with how much you love a cat or how much the cat likes you.

Getting along with your cat or a friend's cat is a completely diverse issue than having an allergy.


Diagnosis

You may be capable to tell that you own a cat allergy based on the timing of your symptoms. If you start to cough, sneeze, feel itchy, or develop a rash correct after visiting your friend who has a cat, then you might own an allergy to the cat.

Sometimes it can be hard to know that a cat allergy is causing your symptoms, especially if you live with the cat.

While some people are allergic to every cats, you might be allergic to a cat even if you own not had allergies to other cats in the past—this can make the effects hard to figure out.

You may also own a hidden exposure to cat allergens, such as when moving to a new home where a cat used to live.

Medical Evaluation

If you own a rash or persistent upper respiratory symptoms, you should see your doctor. After a history and physical examination, your doctor may do some diagnostic tests. Blood tests can include an IgE level to see if you own an allergic reaction.

Skin Prick Test

You may be advised to own a skin prick test.

This would involve your doctor placing a little quantity of the cat hair or skin on your skin with a needle. You would then be observed for about half an hour to see if you develop a reaction.


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