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Cat flea allergy: causes, symptoms and treatments!

Black and white cat itching advice
© Pixabay

Cat flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common skin diseases in feline pets. Knowing its causes and how to treat is essential to any pet parent

By Daniel Mar

Fleabites can become a real nuisance! Not only are they very itchy but, in some cases, they can actually become extremely harmful for cats. In fact, perhaps you didn’t know this but, some cats are ‘allergic’ to the pests. Vets call it cat flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or flea bite hypersensitivity. If your pet has a flea allergy, then he is in trouble! Unfortunately, even one or two fleabites can make your pet miserable. Right now, many cats are allergic to fleas. According to vets, FAD is the most common skin disease in many countries like the US. Nevertheless, in this pet parent guide, you will learn all about it so that you can treat it as best you can!

Learning about cat allergies

“One of the most common medical conditions affecting cats is an allergy. An allergy occurs when the cat's immune system "overreacts" to foreign substances called allergens or antigens. Allergens and antigens are simply foreign proteins that the body's immune system tries to remove”, said Dr Ernest Ward. Usually, a cat allergy manifests in one of three ways:

  1. Itching of the skin (localized in one area or a generalized).
  2. Respiratory system issues like coughing, sneezing and wheezing.
  3. Digestive system problems resulting in vomiting, flatulence or diarrhoea.

What is a cat flea allergy?

Generally, cats respond normally to fleabites. Even if your cat is infested with dozens of fleas, there will typically be very little itching. However, if your pet has a cat flea allergy, he will display a severe reaction to even a single flea bite. “This occurs because the cat develops an allergic response to proteins or antigens that are present in the flea's saliva. When a flea bites a cat to consume a blood meal, some of its salivae is injected into the skin. In an allergic cat, just one bite can result in intense itching that can last for days”, said Dr Ward.

Symptoms of a cat flea allergy

“A cat with FAD experiences intense itching and subsequently chews, licks, or scratches the affected site or sites incessantly. This causes hair loss and can lead to open sores or scabs on the skin, allowing a secondary bacterial infection to develop”, said Dr Ward.

Normally, the area most commonly affected due to FAD is over the rump, right in front of the tail. Felines with cat flea allergy will chew or lick the hair off their legs. Also, you will notice extreme itching and hair loss around the tail base, neck, and head. Lastly, an affected cat may have numerous, small scabs around the head and neck.

Diagnosing a cat flea allergy

“Clinical signs often give the first indication that your cat may suffer from FAD. Cats are such fastidious groomers that it is frequently impossible to find any evidence of fleas or flea dirt on the coat, especially if only one or two fleas are causing the problem. Intradermal allergy tests (skin tests) or specialized blood tests (IgE tests) can confirm flea allergy in your cat”, said Dr Ward.

Treatment for a cat flea allergy

Follow the next 5 steps when treating a cat flea allergy:

  1. Visit the veterinarian – Even if you don’t see any fleas, this doesn’t mean that your cat doesn’t have a flea allergy. Often, animals that groom themselves constantly (like cats) can remove fleas from their bodies. Yet, the allergic reaction from bites can last for weeks.
  2. Break the cycle – You can put an end to your pet’s flea allergy by getting rid of fleas. Remember that fleas can live year-round indoors. Also, once they lay eggs, new fleas hatch which translates into more eggs. Use spot-on (or “topical”) and oral medications to kill adult fleas and their eggs. However, medication is only half the battle. As you already know, fleas not only live on animals. They live in carpets and other surfaces in your home. Make sure that your home is a flea-free environment.
  3. Treat the itchiness – Your vet can recommend a topical, oral, or injected medication to ease your pet’s itching and inflammation.
  4. Avoid irritants – Don’t use flea shampoo or any other topical flea products without consulting with your vet first.
  5. Stay in touch with your vetRegular check-ups are important for spotting infection in time.

Hopefully, this pet parent guide has been useful! Remember that a cat flea allergy is something to fear! Make sure that you spot it in time! Cats tend to suffer greatly under such circumstances.

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