Treating Pruritus (Itchy Cat Skin) with Antihistamines

Itchy cat skin, also known as pruritus can be caused by a number of factors including diet, environment of diseases. The treatment of pruritus with antihistamines is effective only if the condition is caused by allergies or unknown causes.

What Is Pruritus?

Pruritus is skin itchiness and is a frequent feline condition. In cats it will be signaled by frequent scratching, chewing, rubbing or licking of affected areas.

The pruritus may be caused by:

  • Allergies
  • Parasites
  • Skin infections (bacterial or fungal)
  • Autoimmune diseases (feline AIDS or FIV)
  • Dermatitis
  • Psychogenic causes (anxiety, stress)

If left untreated, the itchy skin can lead to skin infections, as the cat chews, licks and scratches the affected area, transferring bacteria on the skin. The scratching may also create deep wounds that need to be treated.

What Are Antihistamines?

The antihistamines are non steroidal anti inflammatory agents.

These may be used if the pruritus is caused by allergies or unknown factors. The allergies cause a production of histamines in excessive amounts; the histamines are the agents that cause the allergic reactions including the itchy skin. The antihistamines will reduce the histamine secretion and will control the allergic symptoms.

Chlorpheniramine maleate has been proven to be an effective antihistamine for cats with allergies. Alternatively, Cetirizine may also be used.

Adverse Reactions from Antihistamines

The adverse reactions from antihistamines include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth and mucous membranes
  • Irritability
  • Difficulties when urinating
  • Blurred vision
  • Hypotension
  • Depression
  • Hepatic dysfunction

If the side effects are more severe than the initial symptoms the antihistamines were prescribed for, the vet will discontinue the antihistamine treatment.

Cautions When Using Antihistamines

One type of antihistamines may be administered for a limited amount of time, due to the fact that the cat may build up immunity to the drug and have no response after 2 to 3 months of treatment.

This is why the antihistamines are rotated frequently.

Antihistamines shouldn’t be administered to cats with prostate problems, urinary retention and glaucomas.

Cats with epilepsy and kidney or hepatic problems should be given antihistamines with caution.

The antihistamines may interact with:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-fungal medication such as ketoconazole or itraconazole
  • Antibiotics from the macrolide group such as erytromicin

Alternative Treatment Options for Pruritus

Besides antihistamines, pruritus may be treated with creams that contain cortisone. Cortisone has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect.

Other medication can be prescribed, according to factor causing the itchiness; antibiotics may clear infections.

If your cat has parasites, insecticide solutions will be needed.

Baths using special shampoos for hypersensitive cats are also recommended.

Watch the diet of your cat; some fatty acid supplements and antioxidants may be recommended for the skin.

The antihistamines are effective in relieving itchiness. However, detecting the cause of pruritus and applying proper treatment is essential. The antihistamines are not recommended as a long time treatment, due to the adverse effects that may occur. Consult your vet when you notice the first signs of skin itchiness and if there are sores or bumps on the surface of your cat’s skin.