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Allergies in Cats: Symptoms and Triggers

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How Are Cat Allergies Diagnosed?

It’s important to see a veterinary dermatologist for an allergy test if your cat has itchy or irritated skin. The test of choice is an intradermal skin test, as blood allergy tests are not considered as reliable.

The only way to diagnose a food allergy is to feed your cat a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet exclusively for 12 weeks─that means no flavored medications or treats. This diet will be free of potential allergy-causing ingredients and will ideally have ingredients your cat has never been exposed to before. Your cat will remain on the diet until her symptoms go away, at which time you’ll begin to reintroduce old foods to see which ones might be causing the allergic reaction.

Please note, many cats diagnosed with a food allergy will require home-cooked meals, but this must be done in conjunction with your veterinarian as it requires a special protein and careful food balancing.

How Can Cat Allergies Be Treated?

The best way to treat allergies is to remove the offending allergens from the environment.

  • Prevention is the best treatment for fleas. Start a flea control program for all of your pets before the season starts. One outdoor pet can not only be exposed, but can carry fleas inside to indoor pets. See your veterinarian for advice about the best flea control products for both your cat and the environment.
  • Use a dust-free, unscented litter. Your cat might have an allergy to the chemicals in scented litter.
  • If dust is causing your cat’s allergic symptoms, clean your pet's bedding once a week and vacuum a minimum of twice weekly-this includes rugs, curtains and any other materials that gather dust.
  • Bathing your cat one or two times per week regularly may help relieve itching and remove environmental allergens and pollens from her skin; talk to your veterinarian for a shampoo recommendation, as frequent bathing can also dry out skin.
  • If you suspect your cat has a food allergy, she’ll need to be put on a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet. Once she’s diagnosed, your vet will recommend specific foods or a home-cooked diet.

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