An allergy is an unpleasant
physical reaction caused by the cat’s immune system overreacting to a food, something
inhaled, or something in the cat’s environment. Without an immune system, any
animal would not be able to build up resistance to viruses, bacteria, foreign
proteins, and other irritating substances that get into the system. Sometimes,
however, the immune system reacts to things that aren’t really a danger.
Certain foods or substances such as pollens, powders, feathers, wool, house
dust, and insect bites trigger a reaction typified by itching and sometimes sneezing, coughing, swelling of the
eyelids, tearing, or vomiting and diarrhea. This reaction occurs in cats as well as in
humans. In rare instances, the immune system reacts against the cells of the
cat’s own body-these are autoimmune problems.
For a cat to be allergic to something, exposure must occur at least twice.
What the cat is allergic to is called the allergen. The way the body responds
to that allergen is called a hypersensitivity reaction or an allergic
is a viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of all mammals,
including cats, dogs and humans. This preventable disease has been reported in
every state except Hawaii, and annually causes the deaths of more than 50,000
humans and millions of animals worldwide. There’s good reason that the very
word “rabies” evokes fear in people-once symptoms appear, rabies is close to
There are two kinds of hypersensitivity reactions. The immediate type occurs
shortly after exposure and produces hives and itching. Hives in the cat are
characterized by sudden swelling on the head, usually around the eyes and
mouth, and occasionally the appearance of welts elsewhere on the body. The
delayed reaction produces itching that occurs hours or days afterward. Flea
bite dermatitis is an example of both types. This explains why a cat may
continue to itch even after fleas have been removed from
the cat and the environment.
Cats may become allergic to certain foods or substances in foods. The most
common food allergens are chicken, fish, corn, wheat, and soy; cats may also
develop a food allergy to beef, pork, dairy products, or eggs. An intensely
itchy rash often develops on the head, neck, and back, and may be accompanied
by swollen eyelids. You may see hair loss and oozing sores from
constant scratching. Sometimes, only the ears will be involved. In those cases,
the ears will be very red and inflamed and may have a moist discharge. Less
frequently, food allergy produces diarrhea or vomiting.
Treatment: Diagnosis is made by feeding the cat a diet without the suspected
food for at least four to six weeks. The next step is exposing the cat to a
suspected allergen and then watching to see if a reaction follows. There are
numerous hypoallergenic diets available.
Atopic Dermatitis (Inhalant Allergy)
This is an allergic skin reaction caused by breathing pollens, house dust,
molds, and other allergens indoors or outdoors. It may or may not occur
seasonally. Signs and symptoms vary. They include itching on the head and neck,
a rash along the neck and back similar to that described for feline miliary
dermatitis, skin eruptions similar to those described in eosinophilic granuloma
complex, and symmetrical hair loss over the body caused by excessive licking