Why I Love Zyrtec For Cats
Zyrtec is an antihistamine approved for use in humans to treat allergy symptoms. In veterinary medicine its used in both cats and dogs for the same indication … and more.
For dogs, Ill turn to Zyrtec when Benadryl fails. Usually, these are the itchy dogs: the hot spot-ridden, flea allergic, food allergic and/or atopic . Except in older dogs whose kidney function I carefully screen before embarking on a course, Zyrtec has proved incredibly safe and moderately effective. The ability to buy it OTC and dose it only once daily for some dogs not to mention its less drowse-inducing action has enlisted my fandom.
The only drawback? Its brand name version is more expensive, meaning it tends to be pricier than drugs like Benadryl. And for a drug that sometimes has to be administered for weeks on end, thats no small factor. Luckily, it’s off patent now and you can purchase generics for significantly less than the prettily packaged stuff.
Moderate dog success notwithstanding, where Zyrtec really shines is in my kitty patients. Though it doesnt work for all itchy cats, it does seem to help quite a bit far more than Benadryls diphenhydramine and significantly more than chlorpheniramine .
The dermatologists on VIN seem to agree: Good, safe stuff for cats, this Zyrtec. Probably more effective than the alternatives. And definitely easier because, for cats, we now know that once-a day dosing is perfectly appropriate.
Dr. Patty Khuly
Watch For Allergy Symptoms
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If your cat does suffer from allergies, it wont be much of a secret. Dr. Weigner said that itchy cats typically get skin conditions due to the release of an immunoglobulin called IgE. Its found in certain cells that are more common in cats skin.
As a result, Dr. William Carlson of Intown Animal Hospital in Atlanta said cats with allergies typically show signs of hair loss, as well as scabs or open sores. Discharge in the ears or excessive scratching also are common symptoms.
Dont raid the medicine cabinet: Resist the urge to sneak a few Benadryl capsules into your cats kibble. While certain antihistamines may be used to treat cats with allergic skin disease, Carlson warned that pet owners should never give a cat medication without consulting a veterinarian first.
“Each patient is different and medications are determined on an individual basis based on a physical exam,” Weigner said. If your cat has serious allergy symptoms, call the vet. Youre better off safe than sorry.
Understand Your Pet Allergies
It is important to see a doctor and be tested to determine what allergies you actually have. You may find that you’re allergic to something else and not your pet at all! For example, you may assume that you are allergic to your beloved dog, only to find out through an allergy test that you’re actually allergic to a specific tree pollen that got on his fur during a walk together, and that’s actually what’s bothering you.
If an allergy test shows that you are allergic to your pet, it is important to understand what causes your allergic reaction to them. There are allergy-triggering proteins called allergens in saliva and skin glands that cling to an animal’s dry skin and fur. The fur and dander then stick to walls, carpets and clothing.
The reaction of someone to these allergens is different from one person to the next. The reaction may range from mild sniffling and sneezing to life-threatening asthma. The reaction can be made worse if a person is additionally exposed to other things he is allergic too, such as pollen, dust mites, cigarette smoke, and mold.
Whether someone has an allergic reaction depends on both the individual person and the individual animal. A person with animal allergies may react less to dogs with soft, constantly growing hair, or one specific cat or dog may cause more or less of an allergic reaction than another animal of that same breed.
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Most Common Cat Allergens
Flea saliva is by far the most common cat allergen.
Cats can also have hypersensitivity reactions to mosquito and other insect bites, but this is less common than flea bite hypersensitivity.
The next most common allergy is environmental allergies.
In dogs, this is generally termed atopy or atopic dermatitis, but in cats its usually called non-food, non-flea hypersensitivity dermatitis.
This is an allergen to things in the environment- pollen, cleaning products, weeds, trees, dust mites, dander, and cigarette smoke are all possible allergens your cat might have a hypersensitivity reaction to.
Food allergies make up about 1-5% of skin disease cases in cats.
Food allergies are built up over time- a cat can have eaten chicken-based food his whole life and still develop an allergy to chicken!
The most common food allergies in cats are beef, chicken and fish- all of which are common in feline diets.
How To Manage Pet Allergy Medications
Over-the-counter drugs are also one way to help you deal with your pet allergies and they can be pretty effective. Nasal steroids are typically the number one treatment for allergies and those help with nasal congestion, dripping and draining, Dr. Hong says.
Other options include antihistamines, like Benadryl, which are good for alleviating itching and sneezing. And allergy shots are another helpful option but Dr. Hong notes that theyre not effective for everyone. Those shots mostly help those allergic to cats and dogs but you may see less success with dogs.
Depending on the pet and the person, more serious allergies could develop, leading to increasing sinus infections. It can also cause asthma to flare up for some and even cause more upper respiratory infections.
While medications can help with many of these symptoms, Dr. Hong says, the downside to relying on those medications should be top-of-mind, especially since some can result in drowsiness. For kids, those medications can keep them from being able to focus on schoolwork. The same goes for adults, who may be at work but also not able to focus.
And Dr. Hong also advises us to remember that while drugs may help us feel better around animals were allergic to, those medications arent cures. Rather, she says, they simply mask our symptoms.
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What If My Itchy Cat Needs More Than Benadryl
Keep in mind that even if a dose of Benadryl calms your cat’s itchiness, it might not be treating the underlying problem. For example, if your cat has fleas or a fungal infection like ringworm, Benadryl will only offer temporary benefits. If your cat’s itchiness doesn’t go away, schedule a veterinary visit for your cat. Once your veterinarian is able to pinpoint the real cause of your cat’s need to scratch, your pet will be on the road to long-lasting relief.
How Do You Know If You Are Allergic To Cats
Most people suspect they are allergic to cats based on the symptoms they experience when they are around cats. Symptoms alone, however, will not reveal which specific proteins a person is allergic to. Allergy tests, including blood tests or a skin prick test, can determine whether a person has a cat allergy.
A skin prick test involves placing a tiny amount of common cat allergen just underneath the skin, then waiting for a reaction. Blood tests can test for specific immune substances associated with cat and other allergies.
Knowing the specific proteins a person is allergic to can help with deciding on the right treatment. So people who have cat allergies but want to continue living with cats should see an allergist.
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What Is A Hypoallergenic Cat
While no cat is truly free of allergens, breeds referred to as hypoallergenic are certain types of cats that naturally produce fewer allergens than others. The Fel D1 protein is a common allergen that is less prevalent in these breeds.
Anecdotal reports claim some breeds might be less likely to trigger allergies. This is in part thanks to their lower-than-average amount of shedding, but most importantly, it comes down to the allergenic proteins that naturally occur in their bodies. There are a variety of hypoallergenic cats with unique temperaments and appearancesso before welcoming your new pet, it’s important to learn about each breed’s traits to ensure they’re compatible with your household.
Here are ten cat breeds that are ideal for those with allergies.
What Foods Are Associated With Food Allergies
The foods typically associated with food allergies in cats include beef, fish, chicken, and dairy. A cat must have been exposed to a food ingredient before developing an allergy to it. An ingredient a cat has consumed for a long time can still cause an allergy at some point in the cats life. An animal cannot develop an allergy to a food that it has never been exposed to. Limited research has been performed in this area and there may be other allergens that have not yet been identified.
An ingredient a cat has consumed for a long time can still cause an allergy at some point in the cats life.
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How To Live With Pets Youre Allergic To
So what can you do to help yourself if youre living with pets youre allergic to? One way is to maintain certain physical boundaries, preventing those pets from going in certain parts of your home and keeping as much of their allergenic proteins away from you.
Ideally, you dont allow them into your bedroom and, especially, on to your bed, Dr. Hong says. This is, after all, where you sleep and allergic reactions would certainly play havoc with your ability to get good rest. Additionally, dogs and outdoor cats can bring in pollen from outdoors on their fur.
You should also keep them in areas of your home where the floors are hard surfaces, like linoleum or hardwood, so that its easier to clean up after them. The same goes for furniture, Dr. Hong adds, saying, Its better to have them in areas with furniture that you can wipe down as opposed to upholstery.
What Is Inhalant Allergy Or Atopy
Inhalant allergy or atopy is not well understood in cats. In dogs and humans, atopic dermatitis generally refers to allergic reactions to environmental allergens such as pollens, grasses, molds, mildew, and house dust mites).
“Most cats that have an inhalant allergy are allergic to several allergens.”
Many of these allergies occur seasonally, such as ragweed, cedar, and grass pollens. However, others are with us all the time, such as molds, mildew, and house dust mites. When humans inhale these allergens, we express the allergy as a respiratory problem. In humans, atopy is also sometimes called ‘hay fever’. The cat’s primary reaction to atopy is severe, generalized itching.
Most cats that have an inhalant allergy are allergic to several allergens. If the number of allergens is small and they are seasonal, itching may last for just a few weeks at a time during one or two periods of the year. If the number of allergens is large or they are present year-round, the cat may itch constantly.
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Vitamin Supplements Help With Itchy Skin
Your cat may benefit from vitamin supplements since vitamins A and E can help improve her skin condition. Ask your veterinarian for advice onadding vitamin supplements to your pets diet.
One particularly effective vitamin is biotin, a B complex vitamin that helps improve dry, itchy feline skin caused by allergies. Biotin isavailable as a powder that can be sprinkled over your cats food each day. It is especially effective when used in conjunction with fatty acidsupplements.
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Your vet will give your cat a thorough examination to rule out common colds and food allergies.
After excluding the possibility of food allergies, the vet will conduct a blood test to check for antibodies, just like in a human allergy test. As a result, the expert should be able to not only tell you if your cat has a pollen allergy but also what specific types of pollen your cat is allergic to.
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What Are Allergies In Cats
Food allergies are built up over time- a cat can have eaten chicken-based food his whole life and still develop an allergy to chicken!
Allergies are an abnormal immune response to a harmless stimulus. When your cats body contacts an allergen through their skin or after breathing it in, a chain reaction starts thats out of proportion to the danger your cat is ina hypersensitivity reaction.
Immune system sentinel cells release cell signals that cause itching, swelling, and redness.
Cats are not usually born with allergies- they develop as your cat ages. Cats are usually diagnosed between six months and three years, but as diagnosis is often difficult, cats have been diagnosed as old as 14 years!
Check With Your Veterinarian
It’s always best to talk to your veterinarian before giving your cat any new medicationseven an over-the-counter product like Benadryl. As the overseer of your cat’s overall health, they are in the best position to point out potential problems. For example, Eddy says that if the cat is already on another antihistamine, adding Benadryl could cause sedation issues.
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Diagnosing And Treating Allergies In Cats
To diagnose allergies in cats, a veterinary dermatologist can look over your pets medical history and perform a physical exam. In some cases, a test can be performed to look for environmental allergies. If your veterinarian believes that the allergy is food related, they may want to narrow down the cause by changing your pets diet until they eliminate the problem food.
When it comes to battling allergies, in some cases, the best thing that you can do for your cat is focus on prevention. If your cat has allergies to cleaners, medications, foods, plants, or other things that are avoidable, try to keep them away from these items. For things like pollen or dust, your cat may need medication to treat the allergies, because these things are very hard to avoid.
Treating allergies can be complicated if the source of the allergies cant be determined. It may take some time with a veterinary dermatologist to find the source of your cats allergies.
Treatment For Allergies In Cats
Treatment of allergies in cats varies depending on the types of allergens your cat is sensitive to.
Treating allergies in cats usually involves a combination of approaches. Allergen avoidance involves reducing your cats exposure to any offending allergens- try keeping your cat indoors with the windows closed on high-pollen days, ensure the house is clear of mildew, and use hypoallergenic bedding. Using cat litters that are dust-free can also help.
A change in diet can help cats, even if they arent allergic to their food. Feeding a diet with lots of fatty acids may help to prevent allergens from working their way under the skin and causing problems.
For all allergic cats, flea treatment is essential. Even if your cats allergy isnt to fleas, the extra itch caused by a flea infestation can set them off with a flare-up. Talk to your vet about prescription flea treatment.
Lastly, drugs that prevent immune over-reaction may be necessary. These can include corticosteroids, antihistamines, and cyclosporine, among other things. These can be given by injection or with tablets at home.
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Reduce Allergens In The Environment
At roughly 1/10th the size of a dust allergen, these microscopic particles become airborne and remain in the environment for up to 6 months after the cat is no longer in the area. Regular cleaning is a necessity for those with cat allergies. Here are a couple ways to make a big impact.
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Testing For Cat Food Allergies
If your cat is still itchy after treating their infection and using a monthly flea preventive, the next step is to test for a food allergy. Unlike people, there is no blood test for food allergies in cats. To figure out if your cat has an allergy to food, your veterinarian will prescribe either a novel protein diet or a hypoallergenic diet.
A novel protein diet is one with a protein source that your cat has never had before. Venison, rabbit, and duck are common novel protein sources.
A hypoallergenic diet is a food in which the protein source is broken down into small molecular pieces so that the body can no longer recognize it as a protein. Think of a puzzle that has an image of a pirate ship. When you take the puzzle apart, you can no longer see the pirate ship.
To diagnose a food allergy, your cat will need to be on the prescribed diet for a minimum of two months without eating anything but that diet. If the diet trial is effective, the next step is to add a new protein source to the food for one to two weeks.
If there is no reaction, we can assume that protein is not causing the allergy if there is a reaction, we know that your cat is allergic to that protein and it must be avoided. Occasionally, some cats must stay on the prescription diet for life to manage their food allergy.
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Look For Other Allergens
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Your cat could be allergic to other things besides pollen and flea saliva. Cats can have food allergies, and they can also be allergic to cigarette smoke and perfumes, as well as cleaning products, certain fabrics and scented litter. Talk to your vet. If she suspects a food allergy, you’ll likely be asked to feed a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet. Switch to dust-free, unscented litter to see if that helps. Try unscented cleaning products and avoiding perfumes.