Cat Skin Allergy Diagnosis: A Brief Guide

A cat skin allergy is a skin condition caused when your cat comes in contact with allergens or foreign substances. Your cat's immune system reacts to such allergens which causes itching, wheezing even diarrhea or digestive system problems. If you understand the types of allergies your cat might encounter, you will be better equipped to treat the condition.

Common Types of Cat Skin Allergies

  • Physical Examination
  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Feline food allergy
  • Feline atopy
  • Contact allergy

Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination is necessary to understand the cause of the allergy. Your pet's medical history will also be helpful to establish a correct diagnosis.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea saliva causes flea allergy dermatitis. When fleas bite cats, they deposit saliva on their skin and this causes severe itching. Cats will repeatedly itch or chew their skin immediately after a bite. This might also cause open sores.

Feline Food Allergy

Cats develop food allergies toward certain ingredients in cat food. This manifests itself in severe itching, digestive disorders and skin problems. Sometimes even medications and vaccinations cause cat skin allergy.

Feline Atopy

This is an allergic reaction caused when your cat inhales allergens like pollens, dust, mold and dander. Some airborne allergies may be seasonal. Atopy is usually seen in young pets. Purebred cats show an increased risk compared to domestic cats.

Contact Allergy

Your cat may develop a skin allergy if he comes in contact with certain substances like fibers, detergents or wool. Cats experience excessive itching, redness and bumps on parts that come in contact with allergic substances.

Symptoms of cat skin allergy show up either immediately or in a few hours after exposure to allergens.

Symptoms of a Cat Skin Allergy

  • Scratching, chewing or biting of skin, licking paws
  • Eye discharge
  • Skin redness
  • Hair loss
  • Rough, scaly skin
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Hives

In order to diagnose the skin condition your cat is suffering from you also need to rule out infections caused by mites, ticks, yeast or fungal infections.

Methods of Diagnosis

  • Skin scraping
  • Blood tests
  • Skin cytology
  • Dermal allergy testing
  • Diet elimination

Skin Scraping

Skin scraping is a test used to determine the underlying cause of your cat's illness. It rules out other causes of skin irritation or inflammation. A collection of skin cells are medically analyzed to reveal the cause of skin irritation. Anesthesia is not required to conduct the test.

Blood Tests

Blood tests check allergen levels in your cat. You can also find out if your cat has several co-existing allergies that show the same symptoms. Some blood tests determine the blood count and biochemical profile. However, these tests are conducted only when cats show signs of other illnesses.

Skin Cytology

This is a test that uses samples of inflamed skin or pustules to diagnose infections or skin diseases.

Dermal Allergy Testing

A test conducted by a trained dermatologist. The dermatologist will shave a portion of skin and inject an allergic substance. The skin will be examined after 48 hours to detect any allergic reactions. Although this test is more helpful than blood tests the results are not always definite.

Diet Elimination

To find out if your cat is allergic to certain food ingredients you will need to put your cat on a hypoallergenic diet. Your cat will have to exclusively eat this food, for a few weeks. During diet elimination you will feed your pet a protein source that he has never consumed before. If your cat responds well to the new diet you can gradually introduce normal food to determine which ingredients bring back the itching.

Cat skin allergies can be both controlled and treated. To treat your cat, you need to understand the severity of the allergy and the duration of allergic reactions. A correct diagnosis is necessary to give you the best treatment options to maintain healthy pets.