Is Your Cat Allergic?

You can help stop the itching, licking and biting from allergies that drives your cat crazy.

By Andee Joyce

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Hungry CatAndrea Sullivan remembers the first time she saw the bald patches on Southpaw's flanks. They had just moved from the East Coast, where Southpaw had been an indoor cat, to the West, where she was starting to go outside. "Soon I started to notice she was licking and biting at herself a lot more than she used to, and she was bald from her middle all the way down to the insides of her back legs," Sullivan says. After over-the-counter skin treatments proved unsuccessful, Southpaw had a series of cortisone treatments from several veterinarians. The shots provided temporary relief, but in time Southpaw went back to licking herself bald and scratching her neck until it scabbed over.

Sullivan then took Southpaw to a veterinary acupuncturist. Treatments helped, but they were expensive and Andrea couldn't afford to keep them up. She also tried changing Southpaw's food, to no avail. Finally, Southpaw solved the problem herself: She lost interest in going outside. When Southpaw became an indoor cat again, the itching stopped.

Does Southpaw's story sound familiar? If it does, your cat suffers from allergies.

Cats have allergies just like humans and as with human allergies, cat allergies vary in severity and can only be managed, not cured. Cats can develop allergies from flea bites to food to airborne pollens. Reactions often severe ones may appear suddenly at any age. Some cats develop respiratory allergies (usually asthmatic wheezing) or digestive allergies (vomiting and diarrhea), but skin allergies are the most common.

A single cortisone shot from a general practice veterinarian or even an over-the-counter skin treatment can provide sufficient relief if symptoms are mild. But if basic treatments don't work or stop working, specialty intervention might be needed from a holistic practitioner or a dermatology/allergy specialist.

First Things First: The Diagnosis
Where do you begin if watching your cat scratch, bite and lick itself bald is driving you crazy? Phillip Raclyn, DVM, who practices both holistic and traditional veterinary medicine in New York City, says his first order of business is determining whether the cat's symptoms are allergy-related rather than the result of another problem such as an autoimmune disorder or parasites.

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Reader Comments

David    Fort Worth, TX

8/25/2014 9:48:14 PM

Had a cat that was losing fur and was almost hairless. Tried various and spent a chunk of savings trying to resolve. But she almost looked like a hairless cat with lesions all over where she licked endlessly. Worst my 4 other cats chased her any time Angel was caught in the floor.

Then one day vet wondered if it might be allergies. Referred me to a specialist. Had the testing done. Took 6 months to see results but now little over a year later and virtually all hair grown back in. And all the cats in family now see her as a cat and treat her as one of the family. She actually gets to roam the house without consequences. Has done miracles for her self confidence and how loving she is. Now that she does not have to literally fight to get to me she comes in whatever room I am in to give her special brand of hugs kisses.

Michalle    Portland, OR

2/3/2012 1:52:06 PM

Three of my cats are allergic to fleas. They need flea control on a regular basis.

janet    bethlehem, PA

8/6/2010 9:25:44 AM

good article, thank you very much

kino    Spring Valley, CA

4/18/2007 7:03:49 PM

thanks for sharing

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