What are Flea Allergies in Cats?
What is it?
How is it Treated?
Any cat breed can develop flea allergies, as the allergic reaction is caused by the cat’s immune system reacting to the flea’s saliva.
It wasn’t until she noticed her normally energetic Sphynx cat, Cleo, incessantly scratching and developing small, red bumps on her skin that Amanda realized something was amiss. Worried about her feline companion’s well-being, she quickly scheduled an appointment with the veterinarian for a comprehensive examination. After a thorough assessment, the vet determined that Cleo was suffering from flea allergies, a common condition that affects many cats.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), or sarcoptic mange, is one of the cats’ most common skin conditions. It affects up to 90% of cats and 50% of dogs. The disease occurs when the cat or dog ingests flea saliva while grooming. This triggers an allergic reaction in the animal’s body.
It causes itching and redness around the cat’s neck, head, ears, legs, belly, and tail. The condition usually occurs when the cat scratches itself after having flea bites.
Cats who suffer from FAD may scratch themselves excessively, making them vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections such as abscesses, ear mites, swelling, or pus. This can lead to open wounds and sores that become infected.
Cats who live outdoors are at greater risk of developing FAD than indoor cats because outdoor cats often come into contact with fleas.
Causes of Flea Allergies in Cats
The most common form of cat dermatitis is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). They usually occur because of the presence of allergens in the environment. For example, some cats are allergic to insects’ saliva.
The saliva contains proteins that cause inflammation and irritation. These proteins are similar to those found in pollen grains. Therefore, when a cat eats the saliva, it causes the same symptoms as eating pollen. At the same time, others become sensitive to the flea itself. Both types of reactions cause itching and scratching. In some cases, the skin becomes red and inflamed. This type of reaction is called dermatitis.
Symptoms of Flea Allergies in Cats
Symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis include scratching, licking, biting, rubbing, hair loss, skin inflammation, and even secondary skin infections.
- The most common symptom is severe itching. Intense itching may occur anywhere on the body but is usually concentrated around the head, neck, shoulders, back, paws, and tail.
- Your cat may also lick himself excessively if he has flea allergies. Licking may lead to dry skin, cracked lips, and sores.
- They often scratch themselves until they bleed. This behavior may result in scabs, scars, and even broken bones.
- An allergic cat may have bald patches. Hair loss is also caused by excessive scratching due to itching. Hair loss is usually concentrated around the face and ears.
- Weight loss is often caused by poor nutrition. For example, your cat may have difficulty eating and drinking. As a result, he may lose weight and be lethargic.
- Sneezing and scratching are signs of irritation. Your cat may sneeze repeatedly and try to remove the irritant. He may also rub his nose against doors, windows, and furniture.
- Weakness and fatigue are other symptoms of flea allergies. Your cat may appear weak and tired. His eyes may look dull and hollow.
If your cat has any of these symptoms, you should treat them immediately because they spread bacteria and parasites. Secondary infection may also occur when bacteria enter through the open wounds created by the cat’s scratching. Secondary infections can lead to abscesses, ear mites, and even bacterial pneumonia.
Diagnosis of Flea Allergy in Felines
Your veterinarian should be able to diagnose FAD based on these symptoms. However, some tests can help confirm the diagnosis.
- One test involves taking a sample of your cat’s saliva and testing it for antibodies specific to the bacteria that causes FAD.
- They thoroughly examine the cat to find areas where hair loss occurs. A comprehensive exam of your cat’s skin and ears to determine if fleas are infesting the fur. They will also examine your cat’s mouth, nose, eyes, ears, paws, and genitals. Then swab the area where your cat scratches and rub it onto a slide. This slide is examined under a microscope to determine whether parasites are present.
- Another test involves taking a small amount of blood from your cat’s ear lobe and analyzing it for antigens associated with FAD. This also rules out other diseases, including feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and heartworm disease.
- Your vet may recommend a biopsy of the affected area. This procedure involves removing a small piece of tissue from the skin and examining it under a microscope to detect signs of inflammation.
If you suspect your cat has flea allergies, ask your veterinarian about treating your pet with a topical solution containing permethrin. Permethrin kills fleas without harming your cat. You can apply the treatment yourself, or your veterinarian can do it. Then, follow up with another application within seven days to ensure the medication lasts long enough to kill off the fleas.
Treatment for Flea Allergies in Cats
There are several treatment options for cats who suffer from FAD, including topical medications, oral medications, and even laser therapy, depending on the severity of the problem.
- Topical treatments are applied to the cat’s skin, containing ingredients that kill the parasites. Some flea control products include spot-on medications, shampoos, collars, sprays, powders, lotions, ointments, and baths.
- Oral medications are given to the cat and contain antihistamines to relieve itching. These medications, including antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics, are typically available over the counter.
- Laser therapy uses light energy to destroy the mites’ eggs, parasites, and bacteria. This method is only effective if the cat is actively scratching itself.
- An Elizabethan collar can be worn around the neck to keep the cat away from areas where it might scratch itself. This type of collar works best for indoor cats.
How to Prevent Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Cats?
There are several ways to prevent FAD in your cat. Here are some tips:
The first thing you can do is wash your cat regularly. Batch him every week or two and brush his fur thoroughly. Bathing can remove dirt and debris that could trigger an allergic reaction. In addition, brushing removes dead hair and fluff that could irritate sensitive areas.
Also, consider feeding your cat rich in protein. Protein helps build muscular coats. The best way to provide your cat with adequate protein is by feeding them a diet that includes meat, fish, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and soybeans. In addition, provide plenty of fresh water. Make sure your cat has access to drinking water at all times.
Apply insecticide sprays to your cat’s environment to prevent flea infestation. Many different insecticides are available, but most will not harm your cat. Acquire veterinary advice before using any product.
Keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats are more likely to contract fleas because they spend their time outdoors. Also, outdoor cats are more likely to contract infectious diseases like rabies.
Make sure you keep your home clean and free of dust mites. Dust mites thrive in carpets, mattresses, upholstery, and bedding. If possible, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to reduce the dust in your house. The cat parent may be treating the cat for ticks, but not all tick prevention products work 100%, and they kill the tick differently.
Treat your cat with a flea collar once a month. This helps prevent fleas from biting your cat and spreading disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
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