How to tell if a cat has an allergy – types, symptoms and treatment

There are three types of allergies that appear most frequently in cats. These are allergy to flea bites, food allergies and so-called atopic dermatitis.

All three can present with similar symptoms that are also common to some diseases. For this reason, it is necessary to visit the veterinarian to find the exact diagnosis and to be able to start the appropriate treatment.


Allergy symptoms in cats

In cats we can find different allergies that present with a similar clinical picture. Before the appearance of any of these symptoms it is essential to go to the vet to identify the type of allergy and rule out that it is fungi or infections.

The symptoms to look out for are the following:



  • Miliary dermatitis, characterized by papules, pustules and scabs. There may or may not be itching.
  • Eosinophilic granuloma complex, with three clinical presentations as eosinophilic plaques, indolent ulcers, and granuloma.
  • Itching on the face and neck, which ends up causing wounds and scabs due to scratching. Also, they can become infected. This symptom is not usually seen in flea allergy.

Flea allergy

This allergy is one of the most common in cats. Therefore, when suspecting an allergic problem, it should always be ruled out that it is a reaction to these parasites. In this allergy, what happens is that the cat reacts to certain components of flea saliva .

It must be borne in mind that this type of allergy cannot be ruled out just because fleas are not observed on the cat. A single bite could already trigger the condition and it must be taken into account that a good part of the life cycle of this blood-sucking insect occurs outside the cat’s body. On the other hand, cats spend hours every day grooming themselves.

In this procedure, which is accentuated by the itchiness of the cat, fleas can ingest. In this way, they go unnoticed to us. Sometimes, using a fine brush we can detect adult fleas or their remains. These are seen as a black sand that corresponds to the excrement composed of digested blood.

Flea allergy treatment

Even without discovering fleas or debris, it is still possible for this allergy known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) to exist . That is why it is advisable to use a dewormer against this species. If the cat improves, the allergy is confirmed.

You have to deworm him and all the animals that live together. It may also be necessary to treat the environment, since it is where a good part of the life cycle of this insect takes place.


Food allergy

In this case, the hypersensitivity reaction occurs when some food is eaten. The way to diagnose this allergy is to establish an elimination diet for 8-10 weeks . The ingredients that most often cause allergies to cats are the following:

  • Fish.
  • Lamb.
  • Dairy products.
  • Bovine.
  • Ovine.
  • Chicken.
  • Gluten.
  • Food Additives.

What is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet is known as one composed of a new protein that the cat has never ingested before. If, after consuming it for at least a couple of months, the cat stops showing allergy symptoms, the diagnosis is confirmed . In these cases, what is called a provocation can be done, returning to the old diet.

A worsening, followed by an improvement when returning to the new diet, indicates the existence of a food allergy. Foods can also be reintroduced one at a time to try to find out which is causing the reaction. It will be the one that restarts symptoms after consumption.

Food allergy treatment

It is necessary to establish a new menu to avoid, as far as possible, an allergic reaction. In these cases, a homemade diet that includes a protein that the cat has not consumed before , in addition to carbohydrates, can be recommended.

An example could be ostrich with potatoes. There are also commercial diets for allergic cats. In any case, for it to work, the cat cannot eat any other food, even in a small quantity. No prizes.

Atopic dermatitis

Contrary to what happens with dogs, in cats there is not as much information about atopic dermatitis. In fact, it is diagnosed by ruling out if the cat’s allergy is not to food or fleas.

This allergy appears in cats from six months of life and up to eight years of age. It produces a dermatological or respiratory symptomatology. The reaction seems to be triggered, above all, by dust mites.

Treatment of atopic dermatitis

Some veterinarians may perform tests to try to locate the antigen (s). If it is successful, it is possible to prepare an immunotherapy. This consists of specific vaccines with the aim of desensitizing the cat .


This process tries to accustom the cat to the allergen, so that it reaches a point where it no longer causes a reaction. Medication is usually needed to control symptoms such as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, essential fatty acids, etc.




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