Diagnosing Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are common and pets suffering from allergies need to be diagnosed and treated. Diagnosing cat allergies may be done judging by some indicative symptoms and by clinical testing. Clinical testing may consist of food trials, skin testing or blood testing.

Symptoms of Cat Allergies

Cats may develop allergic reactions to environmental factors such as chemicals, pollen, dust or mold, food ingredients or parasites such as fleas, ticks or mites. The symptoms of allergies in cats are the same for all types of allergy:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin rashes
  • Swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Scratching and licking in excess
  • Chewing and biting paws or areas that are itchy
  • Hair loss

These symptoms may also point to other diseases, so a more accurate diagnosis is needed. Talk to your vet about your cat's symptoms and proceed to additional tests. Make sure you rule out other medical conditions such as thyroid problems that may display similar symptoms.

It is also important to know what causes the allergy, so as to be able to eliminate it or offer a suitable treatment.

Food Testing

If you suspect that your cat may have food allergies, the most conclusive way to determine the allergy causing ingredient is by food testing. The cat will receive a diet that contains only certain ingredients for 12 weeks. The cat is monitored for allergic reactions. If after 12 weeks, there is no allergic reaction, more ingredients are added to the diet, until the allergen is identified.

The food testing is a long, time-consuming test; however, it is beneficial in healing your allergic cat.

Once the culprit ingredient is identified, this must be eliminated from the cat's diet.

Skin Testing

Skin testing, also known as intradermal testing (IDST), is efficient in case the allergies are caused by environmental factors. Possible allergens are being injected under the cat's skin. If the cat develops an allergic reaction a few hours after the shot, the allergen is detected.

The IDST test will not show accurate results for cats that are under steroid or antihistamine treatment, so discontinue the treatment prior to running the skin testing.

Blood Testing

A blood sample can also be helpful to identify possible allergens. The blood is tested against different irritants. The blood testing can be either a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) or an enzyme linked immunoabsorbent assay test (ELISA). These two tests are similar in methodology, however the ELISA test is considered more conclusive.

Blood testing is not efficient to determine contact allergies (when the cat gets in contact with different materials such as plastic or synthetic fabrics that may result in rashes).

The blood testing may take up to 2 weeks.

Treating Cat Allergies

Antihistamines and steroids are efficient short-term medication options for allergic cats.

If the allergen is identified, the cat's exposure to these allergens must be restricted.

If your cat has food allergies, the vet will recommend prescription food.

If the allergen is an environmental factor, allergy vaccines will be prepared containing these allergens. In time, the cat will build immunity to these allergens.