Treating Flea-Allergic Cats with Flea Antigen

Allergic cats often develop skin reactions due to flea bites. Flea saliva causes skin irritation and pets excessively scratch and chew affected areas. Fleas are also carriers of several diseases and transmit them to pets through flea bites. Cats that are allergic to flea bites develop flea allergy dermatitis. The symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis include frequent scratching, redness and papules. Cats also suffer from fur loss or alopecia.

Flea Antigen

In order to treat pets suffering from flea allergy dermatitis, the vet will prescribe corticosteroid medication to stop the itching. In addition, the vet will inject flea antigen to desensitize the skin to flea bites. Flea antigen enables the cat’s immune system to produce antibodies that help the body decrease it’s hypersensitivity to flea antigen.

Effectiveness of Flea Antigen

Although hypo-sensitization of cats with antigen is a long term solution, the treatment doesn’t work on all pets. Research also reveals that cats injected with flea antigen require life-long treatment for hypo-sensitization as the symptoms of atopy and allergic dermatitis recur if the treatment is discontinued. The exact dosage and schedule of administration is not yet established and pets that are being treated with flea antigen injections have to be monitored for reactions or overdose. The response to flea antigen treatment is gradual and positive results may only be evident after 4 months.

Medications Preceding Hypo-Sensitization

  • Flea control medication to break the flea life cycle.
  • Antibiotic therapy to cure secondary bacterial infection.
  • Corticosteroid drugs used along with flea control medication.

Hypo-sensitization Process

The general dosage of flea antigen is 0.1 to 0.5 ml of flea antigen per 25 lbs of body weight. The antigen is injected intradermally without exceeding 0.2ml per site of injection. The dosage can then be increased gradually to 0.5 ml per 25 lbs of body weight. The general duration for treatment is 6 weeks to 4 months. However, cats that’s have undergone prolonged corticosteroid therapy will be treated with a different dosage schedule.

Side Effects of Flea Antigen

The side effects of flea antigen injections are rare. Pets that are overdosed exhibit symptoms that include vomiting, restlessness, hives and circulatory collapse. However, cats can be treated for overdose with intramuscular injections such as epinephrine or hydrocortisone. The dosage varies according to individual pet symptoms.

Results of Flea Antigen Administration

Flea antigen increases the levels of blocking IgG antibodies. Nearly 70 percent of cats treated with flea antigen respond favorably to the treatment. However cats suffering from underlying conditions such as mange, bacterial pyoderma and yeast dermatitis may not benefit with flea antigen injections. Most vets perform skin testing prior to hypo-sensitization therapy. Cats should also be monitored carefully for a minimum of half an hour after treatment.

Apart from flea antigen therapy, pet owners should look for long term solutions to flea dermatitis by controlling flea infestations in the home and surroundings. A proper grooming schedule that includes bathing and the used of flea shampoos will help control flea allergy dermatitis and reduce the need for medical treatment.