What is Carpet Allergy?
An allergy is considered an inappropriately severe immune reaction to a harmless material. There are four causes of allergies, which include insect (fleas), contact, inhalant, and food (ingestion). A contact allergy such as with carpet allergies is not as common as other allergies because a cat’s fur protects their skin from allergens. However, when it is something your cat has close contact with on a daily basis, the skin can become hypersensitive to the material and cause itching.
The itch is usually in places where there is the least amount of fur such as the abdomen, paws, ears, and chin. Because carpets can hold allergens forever, there are going to be thousands of different substances in the fibers including everything that comes in on your shoes such as grass, dirt, pollen, and even feces. This makes it difficult to determine the cause of the allergen. In some cases, the allergy can cause a fatal reaction called anaphylactic shock so it is important that you visit your veterinarian right away if you believe your cat has a carpet allergy.
Carpet allergies can be caused by an irritant in the carpet such as dust mites or pollen, or it can be brought on whatever material the carpet is made from such as polyester or wool. Since your cat probably spends a large amount of time on the carpet, being allergic to it can create havoc within your cat’s immune system, causing extreme itchiness and sneezing fits.
No matter what it is in the carpet that is causing the problem, it is a contact allergy, which is one of the least common allergies in pets. In some cats, it may be an inhalant allergy as well, especially if it is from dust mites or pollen. However, since cats are constantly grooming themselves, it can also be an ingestion allergy because they are ingesting the allergen by licking their fur. Any of these allergy types can cause itching, sneezing, and even vomiting in some cats.
Symptoms of Carpet Allergy in Cats
Symptoms vary depending on the cat and the allergen. However, the most often reported signs of carpet allergies include:
- Constant scratching
- Crusty or scabbed lesions
- Biting and chewing on paws
- Twitching when touched
- Watery red eyes
- Excessive grooming and licking
- Rubbing at the face and ears
- Red waxy ears
- Bald spots from chewing and pulling out hair
- Eosinophilic lesions and plaques
- Poor haircoat condition
- Facial swelling
- Anaphylactic shock (rare but possible)
- Contact allergy
- Insect (fleas) allergy
- Inhalation allergy
- Food (ingestion) allergy
Causes of Carpet Allergy in Cats
- Carpet cleaners or treatments
- Carpet materials such as polypropylene, polyester, wool, cotton, and nylon
- Dust mites
- Mildew or mold
- Tracked in allergens such as dirt, grass, pollen, and feces
Diagnosis of Carpet Allergy in Cats
There are several ways to determine what your cat is allergic to, but it can take time, and your cat needs help now. In the meantime, the veterinarian will do an examination and a number of laboratory tests to eliminate other potential causes of your pet’s symptoms such as fleas, dry skin, or parasites. You also need to provide the veterinarian with your cat’s complete medical history and any recent illnesses and injuries. Additionally, if you have given your cat any medications, it is essential that you tell the veterinarian because some drugs can interfere with the diagnosis and treatment plan.
Some of the laboratory tests that your veterinarian will probably do include a skin scrape, ear swab and skin tape cytology, and bacterial and fungal cultures. Some of these tests take from 24 hours to a week for results but the veterinarian may decide your cat’s symptoms are severe enough to warrant treatment right away. If the results from the tests come back positive for any other conditions, they will be treated at that time.
Treatment of Carpet Allergy in Cats
If your cat is having trouble breathing, the veterinarian will most likely provide oxygen for breathing support and may also provide intravenous (IV) fluids. In addition, medications will be given either by injection, IV, or orally. Topical medication may also be applied for rash and inflammation.
An antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is extremely helpful for itching and inflammation. If this does not help, or if the itching is severe, a cortisone injection can be immediately effective. However, the long term use of steroids has serious side effects so it is essential that you determine what the allergen is as soon as possible. Another choice for allergies is cyclosporine, which is an immunosuppressant (anti-rejection drug) often given to patients who have had an organ transplant. Antibiotics may also be given to prevent infection and hypoallergenic shampoo is also a good way to help ease the itch. Cortisone cream or ointment will likely be prescribed for skin irritation.
Recovery of Carpet Allergy in Cats
Even though it may be a difficult and lengthy process, your cat will thank you when you find out what is causing the allergy symptoms. If the carpet is actually the culprit, the most effective way to stop the itch is to get rid of the carpet.There is no way to have a 100% hypoallergenic carpet no matter how often you attempt to clean or vacuum it.