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4 Common Causes Of Cat Skin Allergies

The Culprits of Itchy, Irritated Skin

By Meredith Alling. May 04, 2014 | See Comments

Blue cat scratching behind ear

Has your cat been scratching more often than usual lately? Cat's suffer from allergies just like pet parents do, but instead of constant sneezing, it affects their skin. Learn here what are some of the most common causes of skin allergies in cats and ways you can help get him some much needed relief.

Cats can be allergic to many of the same things as humans. However, unlike humans who usually show respiratory signs of an allergic reaction, cats are more likely to have problems with their skin. Allergies that affect the skin are grouped together under the broad term allergic dermatitis.

Symptoms of cat skin allergies include excessive scratching, biting, or licking to try to soothe the itching and inflammation associated with the allergic response. In many cases, this results in hair loss, swelling, skin lesions, and oozing hot spots.

Sound unpleasant? It is. And cats can’t help themselves when they are suffering from allergies -- it is up to the pet parent to take note of symptoms and seek out help. In order to help your cat, your veterinarian will work with you to determine the cause of your cat’s allergic reaction. Here we will look at the 4 most common causes of cat skin allergies.

1. Flea Bites

Fleas are terrible pests, and in many cases they are responsible for a cat’s skin allergy. The allergic reaction is caused by an immune response to the flea’s saliva, which causes extreme itching and irritation at the site of the bite. Before long, a small bite can turn into a large patch of swollen, irritated skin, often accompanied by hair loss and bacterial infection. To treat flea allergies, get rid of the fleas on your cat and in your home and start your cat on a flea preventative.

2. Inhalant Allergens

Inhalant allergens, or atopic allergens, are those absorbed into the cat’s body through inhalation into the lungs. Inhalant allergens are found in your cat’s environment, and while some may be seasonal, others can affect your cat year round. Common inhalant allergens include: flowers, weeds, grass pollens, tree pollens, dust, mildew, mold, perfume, and cigarette smoke.

These allergens can cause itching over various parts of the body, leading to painful lesions and hair loss. Once your veterinarian has identified the source of the allergy, the allergen should be removed from the cat’s environment to prevent future inhalation. In some cases, treatment may include antihistamines and steroids to alleviate symptoms, and oatmeal baths or hypoallergenic shampoos can be used to soothe irritated skin.

3. Contact Allergens

Contact allergens cause an allergic reaction following physical contact. Contact allergens are not overly prevalent in cats, but they do occasionally occur. Common irritants include: flea medications, shampoos, certain fabrics, rubber, plastic, and cleaning products. Once it has been identified, the item causing your cat to have an allergic reaction should be removed from their environment and the allergic reaction will most likely subside.

4. Food

Food allergies -- while relatively uncommon in cats -- can cause gastrointestinal problems as well as skin problems caused by itching. When food allergies do occur in cats, ingredients such as chicken, beef, pork, fish, soy, and wheat are usually to blame. Your veterinarian will work with you to identify and treat the food allergy. In many cases, a cat with a food allergy will need to be on a homemade diet or a food recommended by your veterinarian.

More on Cat Allergies

What Causes Cat Allergies?
What Are Cats Allergic To?
Food Allergies In Dogs And Cats

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Cat Skin Allergies at a glance

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  • 1Skin allergies cause itching and irritation, which often leads to hair loss, skin lesions, and hot spots
  • 2The most common causes of skin allergies include fleas, inhalant allergens, contact allergens, and food
  • 3Your veterinarian will work with you and your cat to identify and treat the skin allergy
  • 4Cats with allergies usually have skin problems rather than respiratory problems