What to do for flea allergy in cats

Food allergy is an unusual cause of nonseasonal pruritus in cats. Raised, crusty, erythemic plaques typically appear on the head, neck, pinnae and abdomen. Signs are typically first seen when a cat is fairly young or geriatric, but a food allergy could manifest at any age, Dr. White said.

Once parasites and primary skin infection are ruled out, diagnosis can be made by food elimination trial, conducted over 8 to 12 weeks.

The smoking gun is generally to kD proteins found in beef, fish or dairy, although dietary carbohydrates, preservatives and artificial flavors are lesser-known triggers. Food allergy is managed with steroids, antibiotics and dietary change to novel/hydrolyzed protein diets.

Feline allergies: causes and imposters

The excessive groomer looks allergic, and indeed may be. “But a cat that grooms excessively might be doing so for reasons other than being pruritic,” Dr. White explained.

Cats can reply to uncomfortable conditions love urinary tract infections and anal sacculitis by pulling out their hair.

Overgrooming can also be psychogenic; in numerous cases, it kicks off because of a true dermatologic condition (e.g. parasite infestation) but morphs into habit even after the underlying problem has resolved. “Allergic can become psychogenic extremely quickly,” Dr. White said.

Location, location, location

When it comes to cutaneous manifestation of allergies, Dr.

White advised, lesion location is the biggest clue to allergy type:

  1. Head and caudal part of body: Ponder fleas.
  2. Head, neck and belly: Ponder food-induced.
  3. Diffuse pattern: Ponder atopy.

Immune hypersensitivities can also encompass locations under the skin surface. Associated signs include upper respiratory abnormalities, nasal/ocular discharge, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.

Like people, cats can suffer from allergies.
As in the human population, the incidence of allergies in pets seems to be increasing.

While allergic humans may often sneeze, wheeze or even own serious respiratory difficulties, allergic reactions in pets are characterized by skin problems, exacerbated by their primary symptom – itching and scratching. Cat allergies drop into three main categories: flea allergy dermatitis, atopy, and food allergy. Numerous pets can be affected by one or more allergy.


What is atopy and what are its symptoms?
Atopy, or environmental allergy, is an allergic reaction to airborne substances love pollen, moulds, home dust mites and animal dander (skin or hair fragments).

It is most common in dogs, but some cats are also affected. The incidence of atopy depends as much upon a pet’s genetic susceptibility as exposure to the allergen itself. (An allergen is any agent causing the allergic reaction.)

Itching, mostly around the face, feet, lower chest and stomach, is the primary symptom. Depending on the cause, this may happen only seasonally (pollen) or year-round (moulds, dust mites and dander). “Hot spots”, other skin infections and ear problems can develop. Frequent scratching due to chronic irritation may lead to hair loss. While the onset of these signs can be seen from 4 months to 7 years of age they are typically first noticed between years of age.

How is atopy diagnosed?
Atopy is confirmed through a process of elimination.

Other causes of itching, such as fleas, mites, lice, bacterial and yeast infections, as well as food allergies, must be ruled out first. Your veterinarian will enquire you for a detailed history of your pet’s itching problem. Skin or serum (blood) testing for diverse allergens may then be performed to assist pinpoint the exact cause.

How is atopy treated?
Atopy is a lifelong condition and there is no known cure. However, there are a number of ways to manage the problem:
Anti-itch therapy, including the use of drugs, medicated shampoos and conditioners.
Removing the source of the allergy from the environment as much as possible.
Hyposensitization uses a series of injections to gradually accustom your pet’s system to the allergen(s) causing the problem.

Although its effectiveness varies, it provides at least some relief for around 75% of pets with atopy.
If the atopy is relatively mild (for example, occasional itching during the pollen season), you can use Elizabethan collars and socks to reduce irritation by physically preventing your pet from scratching or biting itself.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis

What is flea allergy dermatitis and what are its symptoms?
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), also called “flea bite hypersensitivity”, is a skin disease caused by an allergic reaction to flea saliva.

A single flea bite can trigger the disease’s intense itching. Cats with FAD scratch their necks, sides, bellies, inside thighs and the area above their tails with excessive grooming often resulting in hair loss.

What to do for flea allergy in cats

FAD often leads to “hot spots”, or localized skin infections. You may discover fleas and flea dirt (the flea faeces glance love black specks) on your pet, although numerous cats with FAD own extremely few fleas, since they are constantly licking and chewing.

How is flea allergy dermatitis diagnosed?
Your veterinarian looks for the usual signs (scratching, skin sores, the presence of fleas and/or flea dirt). He or she may also order an intradermal or skin test as FAD symptoms can resemble those of other conditions, including external parasites (mites, lice), infections and other allergies, that cause severe itching.

How is flea allergy dermatitis treated?
The best way to treat FAD is to prevent fleas from attacking your pet.

Various insecticides and insect growth regulators that eliminate flea infestations are available. Your veterinarian can recommend the correct product for your pet. Daily vacuuming and frequent washing of your pet’s bedding can also reduce your home’s flea population.

To break the “itch-scratch” cycle that leads to skin infections, your veterinarian may prescribe corticosteroids, antihistamines and essential fatty acids to relieve irritation. Warm water baths and anti-itching shampoos and conditioners also help.

What is most significant to realize is that there is no cure for FAD: your pet will always be allergic to flea bites and you must be continually on your guard to prevent further problems.

Food Allergy

What is food allergy and what are its symptoms?
Food allergy is an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in a pet’s food.

The most common allergens are beef and milk products, cereals (wheat, corn, soya), chicken and eggs. The exact cause of food allergy is not known. Perhaps a change in the pet’s immune system causes certain ingredients to be perceived as “foreign”, initiating inflammatory mechanisms to fight off the perceived “intruder”.

The most common symptoms of food allergy are itching, licking or chewing. Skin problems are also common in conjunction with food hypersensitivity. Some pets may also own diarrhoea and other digestive problems.

Symptoms can appear at any age, whether a pet has just started a new diet or has been eating the same food for several years.

How is food allergy diagnosed?
The only effective way of diagnosing a food allergy is to put your pet on a “hypoallergenic” or “exclusion” diet for a minimum of weeks. Such a diet contains ingredients to which the animal has not been exposed in the past. Because the source of protein causes most allergic reactions, exclusion diets use proteins – often venison, fish or duck – that are normally not found in regular pet food.

An exclusion diet may comprise home-prepared food or prescription commercial hypoallergenic products. Enquire your veterinarian for their recommendation.

If your pet has a food allergy, there should be a significant reduction in the symptoms after the recommended period on the exclusion diet provided your pet is not also allergic to the newly introduced ingredients. To identify every the food allergens, add a single protein for weeks at a time, while watching for a recurrence, or worsening, of symptoms. If this happens, remove the offending ingredient from the diet.

Consult your veterinarian for the correct procedure.

How is food allergy treated?
The best way to treat your pet’s food allergy is to carefully monitor his or her diet, in order to avoid flare-ups. In rare cases, your veterinarian may also prescribe antihistamines and corticosteroids.

Other Insect Allergies
Mosquitoes and midges can also be responsible for allergic skin reactions in our pets. Similar to fleas, in susceptible dogs and cats the allergy occurs secondary to a reaction to the saliva injected by the biting insect. The most effective treatment is prevention! Screen every doors and windows, remove potential breeding sources such as stagnant water, and hold your pet inside during the times of day (early morning and early evening) when these insects are most active

Why is my pet scratching?

There are numerous reasons why pets become itchy.

We generally ponder that fleas are the cause, however there are other reasons too. Some pets experience allergies, just love people. Others may own a skin infection that will go away with simple treatments. Thus, ignoring your pet’s skin condition will complicate treatment options and prolong your pet’s discomfort.

‘We often see dogs and cats who own scratched themselves to the point that the skin has been broken.

This can lead to bleeding and infection which in turn leads to further self trauma  This level of skin damage requires a visit to your local Greencross Vets to ensure a diagnosis and correct treatment are commenced.

Book a vet

Fungal, bacterial, and yeast infections are some common causes of itchy skin that can be simple to treat. So, don’t delay in bringing your pet to the vet to discover out what’s causing them to scratch. Your pet’s quality of life can be affected by uncomfortable itching and scratching, we are here to help!

Skin disorders can be hard to diagnose.

The expertise of a professional veterinarian is needed to ensure safe and effective treatment is started to get your dog back to full health. Some common causes include:

Flea allergy dermatitis

Both dogs and cats can be allergic to flea bites, and it might only take one bite from a single flea to cause this allergic reaction. Dr. Namekata-Wales says, ‘Some dogs are particularly sensitive to flea bites. You may not discover a flea or flea dirt in your dog’s jacket, but one bite could be the cause of their itch.’ Often the itch is extremely intense, especially at the base of their tail.

We recommend using effective flea control every year circular, especially if your dog has sensitive skin. Don’t forget to treat every pets in your household for fleas, including cats but remember to use a product that is safe for them.


Atopic dermatitis  is an allergic reaction to airborne pollens or particles from grass, trees, dust, cleaning products, or mould. There are numerous treatment options now available for atopic dogs and cats. To diagnose atopy, other causes off allergic dermatitis need to be ruled out.

If the time of the year, breed, history, physical examination findings and results of in home skin test are supportive of atopy, a blood or intradermal skin test is then required. Based on the above, your vet will be capable to build a treatment plan moving forward.

Other causes

Food allergies account for approximately 10 to 15% of every allergic skin diseases in dogs. Diagnosing food allergies can be hard, just love with humans. Chat with your local Greencross Vets team and they can provide advice on how to assist your pet if you suspect a food allergy.

In addition to fleas, another cause of intense scratching could be mites.

These parasites can lead to a skin condition known as ‘sarcoptic mange’. Mange is incredibly uncomfortable, and it is zoonotic, meaning it can be passed from animal to human. Treating the mites that cause mange involves treating your pet and their environment. Enquire our friendly team for advice, we are here to help.

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If your pet is scratching their ears, they may own an ear infection. Ear infections can be extremely itchy and painful. If your pet is shaking their head, scratching or rubbing their ears please contact us for advice. It may or may not be related to an underlying skin allergy

Your local Greencross Vets team will work with you to diagnose your pet’s itch and decide on the best treatment plan.

If your dog has been scratching a lot lately, it might be time to discover out why. Together we can ensure your pet is comfortable and happily enjoying life without the itching and scratching.

Why is my dog or cat itchy? An overview of skin allergies in dogs and cats.

Is your dog or cat keeping you up at night scratching. licking or chewing? As spring approaches, itching and allergies are a common complaint among our clients.

The first step when ANY pet (cat, dog, indoor, outdoor) begins itching is to consider fleas. Even if a pet is mostly indoors, humans can track in fleas on our clothing or shoes.

Certainly checking your pet for fleas – glance toward the back half of the pet, around the tail, or on the stomach – is a helpful exercise. However, even if you don’t see fleas, remember that a single bite can cause a pet to become itchy every over. This is because of flea allergy dermatitis, which can vary in severity from mild to fairly severe. These pets are allergic to flea saliva, so when a flea bites (even if it doesn’t take up residence) it can cause a systemic allergic reaction causing a pet to be itchy for days to come. We do recommend year circular flea control for every pets in the Pacific Northwest, as it is typically not freezing enough to kill fleas in the winter due to our temperate climate.

What to do for flea allergy in cats

We see cases of fleas every year at Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic. Give us a call if you are concerned about fleas and we can assist guide you to the proper preventative medication for your pet. We do not recommend applying over the counter flea medication to your pet, especially cats, without consulting with the veterinarian first. Also remember that if you do discover fleas, what is seen on the pet is only 5% of the problem.

The other 95% is in your environment – carpets, baseboards, rugs, furniture, where the immature larval stages will lay dormant for weeks to come. For this reason, treating the environment is also vitally significant. We can guide you through the best products and techniques to clean the environment of fleas safely for every family members.
If the itchiness is not resolved after fleas own been addressed, it is time to come to a veterinarian for further workup. If skin allergies are suspected as the underlying cause of itchiness, red skin, bumps, or crusting there are two main goals of treatment. The first is to diagnose and treat any secondary infection that is present.

A sampling of your pet’s skin using a tape cytology, skin scraping or cultures may be utilized to direct treatment specifically, or combination products may be utilized to treat common pathogens. Depending on the severity of disease, topical and systemic products are used to target the bacterial and fungal species that commonly overgrow on the skin of allergic patients. This occurs because of the underlying inflammation which alters the skin’s immune system “barrier function” and makes the skin more susceptible to infection.

Pets that chew, scratch and lick also disturb the top layer of the skin that helps to resist infection and exacerbate the problem. It is significant to treat secondary infection, as it will contribute to the itchiness and inflammation that your pet experiences.
The second goal of therapy is to address the underlying cause of the allergy, and reduce the resultant inflammation and pruritis (itch). There are several underlying causes of skin allergy in dogs and cats, and often pets can own components of each that contribute to their disease. As described above, the first is flea allergy dermatitis. This is an allergy to flea saliva, so that when a pet receives a flea bite, it incites a systemic inflammatory reaction.

This can be a problem even if there are no fleas found on the pet, as it takes only the bite of the flea to trigger the allergy.
Another cause of itchiness is a food allergy. This is typically to the protein in the diet such as beef, chicken, pork, or fish. To law out a food allergy we act out a diet trial with a veterinary hypoallergenic diet such as Hills D/D. This food has a single protein and starch as well as added omega 3 fatty acids which boost the skin’s immune system. A veterinary diet is recommended because care is taken in production to make each flavor in a separate bin so there is no cross-contamination between proteins.

Over the counter hypoallergenic diets (even expensive foods from the pet store) own been found to own traces of allergenic proteins such as beef or pork. A diet trial involves feeding the food exclusively for 8 weeks at the minimum before assessing results.

What to do for flea allergy in cats

Ideally, the protein chosen would be one that your pet has not been fed previously. We often start by eliminating food and flea allergy, as these are more readily treated and do not require istering systemic medications.

What to do for flea allergy in cats

In addition, if a pet has a little component of each type of allergy, we may be capable to significantly reduce symptoms by just providing religious flea control and the correct diet.

The final trigger of skin allergy in pets is the most common – environmental allergies. These comprise 85% of allergies in dogs and cats. Environmental allergens include grasses, pollens, trees, dust mites, or molds. This is disease is called atopic dermatitis (atopy). We can test for environmental allergy by submitting bloodwork to screen for antibodies to certain common allergy triggers. In other cases, we may refer you to the dermatologist for intradermal patch testing against common allergy triggers.

As avoidance of these types of allergens is almost impossible, we use other methods to treat this disease. The results of allergy testing can be used to formulate injections or oral medication (allergen specific immunotherapy), which over a period of time allows us to desensitize your pet to the environmental allergens that he or she is sensitive to. Successful therapy can lead to decreased severity of disease, which translates to fewer medications and treatments for your pet. Allergen specific immunotherapy is helpful for % of pets. Alternatively, symptomatic therapy with immune modulating medications such as anti-inflammatory steroids or the new anti-itch drug Apoquel can be used to temporarily relieve inflammation secondary to atopy.

Other pets require a little quantity of these medications in addition to the allergy injections for endless term maintenance.

What to do for flea allergy in cats

Similarly, antihistamine medications are utilized to decrease histamine release which is an significant mediator of itch. Finally, bathing is an significant part of an atopic pet’s maintenance routine to reduce the number of allergens that own prolonged contact with the skin.
If your pet is the appropriate age or breed we may consider testing for hormonal diseases such as hyperadrenocorticism or hypothyroidism which can also trigger skin disease, and mimic allergic skin disease as described above.
I hope this finds you and your pet families well as we head into the spring season.

As always, we are here for you and your pets, do not hesitate to call or email with questions.

Take care,
Julia Mulvaney, DVM

Cats and their eosinophils

Most true allergies in cats drop under eosinophilic granuloma complicated (EGC), which can manifest as diverse lesion types:

  1. Miliary dermatitis: little, raised, crusty papules
  2. Eosinophilic plaque: elevated, flat thickening with a red-orange middle and crusting
  3. Rodent/indolent ulcer: eosinophilic infiltrate that occurs as bilateral, raised lesion(s) at the upper lip margins
  4. Eosinophilic granuloma: linear plaques, often on one or both hind legs, and dome-like masses that may happen in the interdigital tissues.

EGC is treated with multimodal therapy that sometimes includes antibiotics.

“Steroids own a extremely strong inhibitory effect on eosinophils,” Dr. White said.

Atopy: allergies “on steroids”

Once fleas, food allergy and infectious dermatitis own been ruled out as the cause for nonseasonal pruritus, consider atopy, Dr. White said.

Atopy is cutaneous inflammation often associated with production of IgE against environmental allergens. Atopic cats may own a genetically predisposed abnormal cutaneous barrier to start with; antigens easily penetrate the skin and are escorted to the lymph nodes by sentinel cells called Langerhans cells.

Here, the lymphocytes produce antibodies that initiate the inflammatory cascade.

Atopy is the underlying state that “greases” the immune system: It makes every allergic condition worse, be it flea allergy or food hypersensitivity. It also intensifies allergic responses with subsequent exposures, and seasonal flares can turn into everyday issues. In fact, said Dr. White, 75% of atopic cats own year-around pruritus. “Even in cats that started out seasonal, over time they eventually become nonseasonal,” she said.

Atopic cats own widely distributed lesions, and diagnosis can be made by history, clincal signs and the process of diagnostic exclusion.

Allergen-specific immunotherapy is the gold standard of treatment for feline atopy, Dr.

White said. Immunotherapy is developed from results obtained on an intradermal allergy test or serology (which generally shows high levels of IgE in circulation). Vials typically are limited to 10 to 12 antigens apiece, possibly because there is cross-reactivity between diverse antigens and to avoid diluting therapy to the point of making it ineffective.

Treatment is most effective with a multimodal protocol that includes allergen-specific immunotherapy, anti-inflammatories (corticosteroids, Atopica, Apoquel, antihistamines and essential fatty acids) and allergen avoidance.

What to do for flea allergy in cats

Because stress can exacerbate pruritic behaviors, Dr. White also recommended the use of behavior modulators love amitriptyline, fluoxetine and clomipramine in cats with intense pruritic behaviors.

Creepy crawlies

Feline pruritus can be rooted in parasites. The most common pruritic skin disease in cats is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which may or may not be seasonal depending on geographic region. While flea bites themselves are itchy, most cats develop type I and type IV hypersensitivities to flea salivary antigens.

The head, neck and caudal half of the body typically manifest bilateral, symmetric alopecia as well as miliary dermatitis.

While there are no age, gender or breed predilections for FAD, atopic cats—as well as cats with intermittent flea exposure—are most severely affected; cats that are exposed to fleas continuously tend to build up tolerance.

Diagnosis of FAD is generally made by the distribution of lesions and itchiness on the cat, as well as the presence of fleas and/or flea dirt. Trichograms may show broken-ended hairs. Serologic and intradermal skin testing may be diagnostic, although false-positives can occur.

The treatment mainstays for FAD are corticosteroids, but immunosuppressants such as cyclosporine (Atopica—Elanco) and oclacitinib (Apoquel—Zoetis) are effective as well.

Atopica, which inhibits the inflammatory activator calcineurin, requires 30 to 90 days for onset of action. Twice-weekly dosing has been shown to be 63% effective in cats with EGC. Apoquel can be used off-label in cats at a dose of 1 to 2 mg/kg twice daily, but Dr. White added that it should not be the first choice for treating allergies in cats.

The affected cat, the home environment and every other pets in the household should be treated with flea control products.

Prevention can be accomplished through the use of parasiticides effective against fleas as well as through flea exposure avoidance.

Like flea bites, mosquito bites can also produce hypersensitivity (type I) in cats, with no predilections. Bloody, oozing, pruritic lesions typically develop on the rostrum, ears, face and paw pads. Corticosteroids and insect repellents are effective.