If your cat has fleas that is not a good thing. But if your cat has an allergic reaction to fleas as well that makes matters even worse. But what exactly is a cat flea allergy? Or ‘cat flea dermatitis’ to give it its full title. What are the symptoms? And what can you do about it? Well, here is everything you need to know about flea allergies in cats…
Fast facts about cat flea allergy dermatitis
- All cats can have a reaction to flea bites. It’s normal for all cats to have some kind of reaction to fleas and their bites. All cats can experience some behavioral changes like the sudden urge to scratch and physical changes like skin damage. But you know that your cat is already suffering from a cat flea allergy if these changes are severe. Intense scratching that leads to wounds and infections and extreme skin damage that leads to fur loss are no longer typical cat reactions unless your cat is full of flea bites.
- Allergies are triggered by the cat’s hypersensitive immune system. Fleas suck on the blood of their hosts to survive. In the process, they inject some of their salivae into their hosts. Unfortunately, the immune system of cats sees these substances as foreign objects that need to be eliminated immediately. The immune system can become hypersensitive, giving the cat a variety of symptoms like intense itching. Yes, itching can still occur even if your cat is not allergic. But if your cat is suffering from intense itching even if it only has a few bites, you might have a cat flea allergy on your hands.
- Watch out for behavioral and physical changes in your cat. You know your cat more than anyone else. Surely, you will know when something is wrong. You will notice a lot of symptoms. Skin conditions are the easiest to spot because you can see them physically. But respiratory and digestive symptoms may be harder to see, especially if you don’t look at your cat 24/7.
Symptoms to look out for
- Skin symptoms are the easiest to spot. A cat with flea allergy dermatitis will show a lot of skin symptoms, such as crusts and small bumps, and fur loss. You will see these symptoms even if your cat doesn’t scratch obsessively. When looking for these symptoms, give particular attention to your cat’s head, neck, abdomen, thighs, and lower back. The crusts and small bumps may look very concerning and graphic, but they are not very serious threats. They can, however, lead to secondary skin wounds and infections.
- There may be respiratory symptoms. The respiratory symptoms you should look out for are coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. They may also be accompanied by a discharge from the eyes or nose. Take note that respiratory symptoms don’t automatically mean flea allergy dermatitis. Some flea treatments, for instance, can have negative side effects like these respiratory problems. Flea collars in particular can result in choking because of the tightness of the colar or coughing because of treatment toxicity.
- There may be digestive symptoms as well. Diarrhea, flatulence, and vomiting are the digestive symptoms that should concern you. But again, having these symptoms doesn’t automatically mean that your cat has flea allergy dermatitis. They may occur because of other issues, such as intestinal blockages, stress, and even hairballs. This further stresses the importance of proper diagnosis. If you really want to make sure that your cat has flea allergy dermatitis and not something else, visit a veterinarian. The medical professional can perform tests to properly diagnose what’s wrong.
What to do
- Consult a veterinarian. There are many ways to know if your cat truly has an allergy. The veterinarian can do physical examinations and skin tests and look at your pet’s medical history. The medical professional will also be able to prescribe the appropriate treatment, such as antibiotics, antihistamines, and corticosteroids. Fleas may also give your cat other conditions, like anemia and bacterial infections. These possibilities give you more reasons to visit the veterinarian instead of diagnosing and trying to treat the problems by yourself.
- Know the other possible irritants. Consider the possibility that there are other irritants in your home that are giving a variety of symptoms to your cat. This is highly probable if your cat doesn’t even have fleas. But it can be tricky to find out if your cat is already suffering from fleas and flea bites. Dust, mold, and pollen are common culprits. But don’t rule out food allergies as well, such as those that involve chicken and fish protein. The pattern of the skin lesions that can occur from these allergies is different from those that can occur from flea allergy dermatitis. Again, this highlights the importance of consulting a veterinarian.
- Get rid of the fleas themselves. If your cat doesn’t have fleas, it is not vulnerable to flea bites and the possibility of cat flea allergy. Again, consult a veterinarian for the safest and most efficient flea treatment possible. However, there are some ways to get rid of cat fleas yourself. You can buy over-the-counter flea products, but remember that you can’t use dog flea treatment on cats. You can also bathe your cat with warm water and mild shampoo to relieve flea bites and itchiness. But this is not advisable if the flea bites are already deep and ulcerated. In short, treating fleas and flea bites yourself needs a lot of research. If you don’t do your homework, your treatment can be ineffective and dangerous.
Your cat can be allergic to flea bites
Your cat can experience flea allergy dermatitis or more commonly called as simply “cat flea allergy” because of flea saliva. The immune system can treat the saliva as a foreign object that needs to be eliminated immediately, making your cat hypersensitive and giving it various symptoms like intense itching.
It’s best to consult a veterinarian to diagnose and treat flea allergy dermatitis. But you can diagnose it yourself by looking at behavioral and physical changes. The treatment, however, should still be under the supervision of a medical professional. The problem with self-treatments is that they put your cat’s health at risk, and the treatments may not even be effective.