Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Cats

Seasonal allergies appear in felines, canines and humans. Cat symptoms of seasonal allergies are very similar to those experienced by human allergy sufferers. A seasonal allergy develops when an over sensitive immune system launches an attack on a foreign substance in the body. The invading substances are usually benign and most animals do not develop allergy symptoms. Genetics may determine immune sensitivity in cats and humans.

Seasonal allergies fall into the category of atopic allergies. Atopy refers to allergies that undergo a sensitization period. This does not include rapid reactions or irritations that develop upon contact with chemicals or toxin agents. Food allergies are also excluded from this category.

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies fall into 2 categories:

  • inhalant
  • contact

Airborne agents, such as dust, pollen, molds and fungi, cause inhalant allergies. Contact allergies develop after direct physical contact with a substance.

Contact allergies are rare among felines, as their hair protects the body from most substances; however, shampoos, soaps, household cleaning product and plants can induce an allergy in sensitive individuals.

Sensitization Inhalant Allergy

Most felines will not display full symptoms of inhalant seasonal allergies for at least 6 months after exposure. In some cats, this may take 2 years to develop.

During the initial contact with a substance, the body will begin to produce antibodies within a certain type of white blood cell. Upon subsequent contact, the cells release antibodies in the form of antigens. One powerful antigen is histamine. Over time, the body releases larger amounts of antigens. The antigens trigger the seasonal allergy symptoms.

It is at this point that felines begin to feel the discomfort associated with seasonal allergies. In airborne allergies, it is difficult to remove the source. In the case of pollens, symptoms may lessen during the winter months.

Inhalant allergy symptoms include:

  • scratching of the face and neck region
  • constant licking of the feet
  • watery eyes or mucous in the eyes
  • runny nose
  • pawing and scratching the ears
  • rash
  • hair loss
  • skin lesions or pustules
  • darkening of pigmentation
  • thickening of skin

Felines that remain untreated are at risk of developing bacterial infection in the spreading lesions and pustules. Diagnosis is difficult, because symptoms are often similar in cases of dermatitis, infections and insect bites.

Contact Seasonal Allergies

Contact allergies usually appear within 12 to 48 hours after initial contact. They do not undergo a period of sensitization.

Contact allergy symptoms include:

  • swelling of the face
  • development of hives
  • inflammation and/or redness around the eyes, mouth and nose
  • itching
  • welts
  • licking of the feet

Symptoms of contact allergies develop rapidly and isolation from the source may alleviate symptoms. These symptoms may also indicate a more serious condition or reaction to a toxic chemical. Only your veterinarian can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Non-Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies share many of the symptoms observed in seasonal allergies. Food allergies or food hypersensitivity can be mistaken for a seasonal allergy. They often suffer from itching, hair loss and inflammation. In some cases, vomiting or diarrhea is present.

Feline allergies to medications or contact irritations may also present similar symptoms.

In combination with diagnostic testing, a detailed history will help your veterinarian discover the cause of the allergy and appropriate treatment.