Cats can get skin allergies just like dogs, but luckily they’re less common. This is good news because cat allergy symptoms are not only troublesome for your feline friend, but they’re also extremely frustrating for you as their pet parent. Signs of skin allergies in cats include the cat’s excessive itching, redness, and scabs on your cat’s skin that make it difficult for them to lie comfortably. Your cat’s health is important and If you notice any of these, it may be time to get some help.
What Causes Itchy Skin in Cats?
Itchy skin in cats is a common problem. Your cat may be scratching, biting, or licking himself excessively, and this can be very uncomfortable for him. Itchy skin can also cause patches of your cat’s fur to be missing as well as infection in your cat’s skin.
The most common cause of itchy skin in cats is fleas. Fleas can cause severe irritation, especially around the neck and shoulders, because they seem to prefer these areas. If your cat has fleas, you’ll usually notice small black spots on his coat where they’ve been biting him.
If your cat has flea allergies, he’ll also be scratching excessively when he’s not infested with fleas. This condition is called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or flea allergy furunculosis (FAF). It’s actually a separate condition from FIV-induced dermatitis and is treated differently than other types of itchy skin in cats. Fleas can also spread tapeworms which can lead to diarrhea in cats if not treated correctly by your veterinarian.
Other possible causes of itchy skin include:
- Environmental allergens (pollen, grasses)
- Food allergies
- Atopy (skin allergies)
- Skin infections like ringworm or staphylococcus infections
- Unsanitary litterbox conditions
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a reaction to a substance that does not normally cause an allergic reaction. It is often caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to an antigen, which can be dietary, environmental, genetic, or idiopathic (of an unknown cause). In an allergic reaction, mast cells in the body release chemicals such as histamine that cause abnormal inflammatory responses throughout the body.
How Can I Soothe My Cat’s Itchy Skin?
If your cat is scratching or biting herself, it’s important to know what’s causing the behavior and how to manage it. For most cats, itchy skin is caused by parasites, mites, and fleas, allergies, and sometimes irritants like dander from other animals or food allergies. Inappropriate nutrition and the environment can also contribute to this problem. To get a better understanding of how to prevent itchy skin, take a look at the measures discussed below.
Take Care of Fleas
You can find flea collars at pet supply stores, and they work by releasing chemicals that kill fleas. However, many cat owners have reported negative reactions to these collars after their pets started wearing them. Some cats seem fine at first when they wear the collars, but after a while, they develop skin irritations or other problems.
Natural flea preventatives can be a good way to keep your cat free of ticks and other pests. They are often safer for cats than the chemical-based products you can buy at the store, which can cause mild allergic reactions.
Natural flea preventatives include:
- Collars that release natural oils that repel insects
- Essential oils such as eucalyptus or cedar oil are put onto a collar or applied directly to your cat’s fur
- Flea powders made with herbs like rosemary or thyme (ask a holistic veterinarian to ensure these are appropriate for your individual cat)
Keep the Cat Litter Clean
Most cats are very clean animals. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves and using the litter box. Some cats will even use it before eating or drinking as if it were a daily ritual.
However, sometimes this can cause problems for your cat’s skin because of how frequently they use it and how dirty the litter can get over time. It might also irritate their paws or cause them to develop infections from bacteria in the box if it gets too dirty or is not cleaned often enough.
How often you need to clean the litterbox depends on how many cats you have and how long it takes for them to use the box. If you have one cat, cleaning once a week should be sufficient. If you have two or more cats in the home, then you may need to clean the litterbox every day.
Take Care of Food Allergies
Food allergies in cats are a common problem. A food allergy is caused by an immune system response to certain proteins found in a cat’s diet. A food allergy is different from a food intolerance, which is an inability to digest or metabolize certain foods.
Food allergies can cause itching, scratching, ear infections, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some cats develop respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis that can be life-threatening.
The most common food allergens include beef, chicken, fish, and dairy products. Cats are also allergic to some grains and legumes, such as corn and peas, that are often found in cat food.
Cats with food allergies usually show signs within one hour after eating the protein that causes their allergy.
Your veterinarian will recommend special diets for your cat based on testing for specific allergies or a trial diet that contains only one ingredient until your cat’s symptoms clear up. This is known as an elimination diet. You may need to continue feeding this diet long-term if your cat continues to have symptoms after being off of all other foods for several weeks.
Clearing Up Yeasty Skin & Coat
Yeast is a fungus that lives on the skin and in the gut. It can cause problems if it grows out of control and spreads to other areas of the body. One of these problems includes an itchy cat.
Yeast issues are most commonly caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. They usually occur on the skin around the anus, the mouth, and on the paws. However, cats can also develop other fungal issues including ringworm, feline stomatitis, or genital conditions.
Fortunately, they are frequently managed well with over-the-counter medications that can be found at any pet store. Treatments usually consist of a liquid suspension that you will administer orally every day for at least 14 days.
If your cat has recurring issues with yeast, it may be due to an underlying health problem such as diabetes or kidney issues. Your veterinarian can test for these conditions and give you advice on how to treat them.
Managing Bacterial Skin Irritation in Cats
Bacterial skin irritations are common in cats. These infections can be caused by bacteria that normally live on the skin, or they may be caused by bacteria that enter through a wound or break in the skin. These irritations usually cause dry, scaly patches of skin. The patches may itch or burn, and the cat may lick at them excessively. Some cats develop red bumps and pustules on their skin as well.
Skin irritations can be very uncomfortable for your cat, so it’s best to get them treated as soon as possible. To do this, you need to determine the cause of the problem and then choose the right treatment method accordingly. These can often be managed by your veterinarian with a topical antibiotic ointment or spray and oral antibiotics.
Managing Allergic Skin Issues
Allergic skin issues in cats is a very serious condition that can cause itching and abnormal inflammatory responses of the skin. Cats with this condition can also suffer from anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
Allergic skin issues occur when your cat’s immune system mistakenly identifies parts of its own skin as harmful and dangerous to your pet. This results in a rash, which may lead to your cat’s itching or red or flaky skin.
The rash may appear on any part of your cat’s body, including around their eyes, nose, mouth, and paws. The rash can also occur on other parts of the body that are not typically affected by allergies such as the shoulders.
There are many different types of allergic skin issues, each one requiring different treatments. Some require immediate treatment while others are more manageable if treated at home over time. Allergic skin diseases can be treated with medicine or through diet modifications. Ask your veterinarian how to manage your cat’s itchy skin and any other effects you may be noticing.
What Can I Give my Cat for Itchy Skin?
Offer Some Hemp
CBD for cats is another option you can look into so you no longer have an itchy cat. Full-Spectrum Hemp Extract can be helpful in promoting inflammatory responses that may be causing irritation and discomfort. Here at Earth Buddy, we offer a 250mg Hemp Extract for Cats and Paw Skin Balm.
The Hemp Extract is a tincture you provide orally and the balm is applied topically to your cat’s skin. In addition to encouraging the immune system to work properly against your cat’s allergies, the Paw Skin Balm may help with dry skin.
Grab Some Mushrooms
The medicinal properties of mushrooms have been known since ancient times, but have only recently become popular among pet lovers in the United States. When used as a supplement, medicinal mushrooms may be helpful for allergies in cats by boosting the immune system and promoting normal inflammatory processes. Earth Buddy utilizes 5 types of medicinal mushroom in the Focus + Immune mushroom product, including:
- Agarikon: Rich in antioxidants, this mushroom was known as the ‘elixir of long life’ in ancient Greece; modulates the immune system.
- Reishi: Now known as the ‘mushroom of immortality,’ this mushroom has been used for centuries; supports cardiovascular health and supports seasonal or dietary allergies.
- Cordyceps: Traditionally used by the fitness world due to benefits regarding endurance and allergies; may have an effect on oxygen uptake for increased energy.
- Lion’s Mane: The benefits of this mushroom in supporting the brain and nervous system function have been extensively researched; encourages focus and cognitive function.
- Turkey Tail: This mushroom is known to be one of the most researched; contains compounds that support immune function and promote normal inflammatory processes.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
If you notice excessive scratching for more than a week and nothing seems to be working, it’s time to make a visit to the veterinarian. If there is an underlying medical condition, the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be for your veterinarian to treat and the worse the symptoms may be.
Your veterinarian will look for signs of fleas, ticks, mites, lice, or other parasites which can sometimes be the culprit for causing your cat’s skin to be irritated or inflamed. They may need skin scrapings to determine the cause of your cat’s itchy skin as well.
Once it has been established that there is no external parasite present, your veterinarian will likely perform lab work such as testing for feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and other medical conditions that could be causing your cat’s itchiness.
Your veterinarian may also recommend bloodwork or other diagnostic tests such as X-rays or ultrasounds depending on their findings during the physical exam and lab work results. Decisions can then be made regarding treatment based on what the results show.
For further reading, we recommend the sources listed below.
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