What is Allergic Shock?
The longer the allergic shock takes place, the more dangerous it becomes. If anaphylaxis is left untreated, it can be fatal, which is why it’s imperative that you take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you spot the symptoms of this life-threatening condition.
Just like people, cats can be allergic to pollen, mold, dust, different foods, or medication. When they are exposed to one of these allergens, their bodies react in the same way that ours do. Allergic shock, or anaphylaxis, is the medical term for the immediate reaction that occurs after exposure to an allergen. Symptoms of allergic shock begin suddenly and without warning, and affect both the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. You may notice your cat struggling to breathe, vomiting, swelling, drooling, or experiencing seizures. All of these are symptoms of allergic shock and should not be ignored.
Symptoms of Allergic Shock in Cats
The symptoms of allergic shock, or anaphylaxis, will begin to appear almost immediately after your cat is exposed to the allergen. Time is of the essence in getting your cat help if he is experiencing allergic shock, so don’t delay seeking medical attention. Some of the symptoms you may notice include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Cold limbs
- Colorless gums
- Increased heart rate
Causes of Allergic Shock in Cats
Allergic shock occurs after your cat is exposed to something he is allergic to, which will vary depending on the cat. Most of the time, allergic shock is caused by one of the following allergens:
- Insect stings/bites
- Medications or natural supplements
- Food allergies (most common cat food allergens include beef, lamb, seafood, corn, soy, dairy, and wheat gluten)
Diagnosis of Allergic Shock in Cats
It’s imperative you take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you spot the symptoms of allergic shock. The longer you wait, the more dangerous the condition becomes. If you know your cat has been exposed to an allergen, make sure you mention this as soon as possible to the vet. If not, tell your vet whether your cat has taken any medication, had any vaccinations, or eaten anything unusual. If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure you let the vet know this as well so he can determine whether an outdoor allergen has caused the reaction.
The vet should be able to diagnose the condition by observing the symptoms. Because allergic shock is usually an emergency situation, the vet does not have much time to perform tests or discuss the cat’s condition further because treatment will need to begin right away.
If the allergen is unknown, the vet may decide to perform skin allergen tests after the treatment has completed and the cat’s condition has been stabilized. These tests will help you identify which environmental elements, foods, or medications your cat should stay away from to prevent another reaction.
Treatment of Allergic Shock in Cats
Treatment will need to begin immediately in order to save your cat. If your cat’s condition is severe, the vet will administer a dose of epinephrine via injection to stop the allergic reaction. Epinephrine causes the muscles to relax and veins to constrict, so your cat’s breathing and blood flow will begin to normalize in just a few minutes after treatment.
The vet may also need to provide supportive care to your cat, including IV fluids and oxygen. If exposure to the allergen has caused your cat’s airway to begin to close, the vet may need to open the airway to allow your cat to breathe. The vet may ask to keep your cat for up to two days after administering the epinephrine so he can closely monitor his condition before you take him home.
After your cat’s condition has been stabilized, the vet may suggest administering antihistamines in case any symptoms reappear. This medication can make your cat feel drowsy and lethargic, but the side effects should not be too severe.
Recovery of Allergic Shock in Cats
After your cat has been released to you, it’s important to do everything you can to keep your cat away from his allergens. This is why managing your cat’s health after allergic shock is much easier if you know what his allergens are. If you are not sure what they are, speak to your vet about performing skin allergen tests.
Now that you know your cat is allergic to something, you need to closely monitor him for signs of another allergic shock episode. If your cat begins to experience another allergic reaction, bring him into the vet right away.
You should also speak to your vet about obtaining an EpiPen prescription. The EpiPen is an auto-injector that administers epinephrine in case of an allergic reaction. Keep this in your home so you can treat your cat in the event of another allergic reaction.