What is Dust Mite Allergy?
Dust mites live in the home of pet owners, residing in cloth toys, upholstery, mattresses, bedding and carpeting. These mites thrive in humid temperatures, specifically the hot air exhaled during times of sleep. Dust mites feed on skin cells, environmental viruses, fungi and bacteria, but prefer the skin scales of atopic felines. Although the mites may feed on dead skin cells, the actual mite does not cause an allergic response, but rather the dust mite feces. Dust mites have a specialized protein, Der p1, which is passed in their feces and causes a feline to become hyper allergenic. An affected feline may have asthma-like symptoms, such as coughing or wheezing, paired with pruritus, hair loss and skin lesions.
Dust mites allergies in cats is a non-seasonal, allergic response to the microscopic mite commonly known as the dust mite. Dust mites are one of the most common causes of feline allergies with a surprising 30 to 80 percent of all atopic pet cases tested revealing a positive result for dust mites. The United States is home to two species of dust mites: Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, however, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is more common to the United Kingdom.
Symptoms of Dust Mite Allergy in Cats
A feline suffering from dust mite allergies may experience recurrent seborrhea, otitis (ear itching and inflammation), pyodermas (skin infections) and generalized pruritus, specifically on the feet or face. A feline may also show clinical signs of eosinophilic granuloma complex lesions, plasma cell pododermatitis, or chin acne. Dust mite allergies in cats will also cause symptoms including:
- Crusty skin patches
- Hot spots
- Localized hair loss
- Skin damage
Secondary to skin reactions of dust mites, your cat may also develop a form of allergy-related asthma. As the feline inhales the fecal dust from the mites, he or she may cough or gag, and do so in a hunched posture in an attempt to stabilize breathing.
Causes of Dust Mite Allergy in Cats
Dust mite allergies in cats is caused by the Der p1 specialized protein found in the mites’ feces. Coming into contact with said fecal particle, the feline’s immune system overreacts, creating antibodies for the antigen. Dust mites allergies are non-seasonal, but felines may develop an allergenic condition during the fall and winter months. Likewise, an outdoor cat that is brought indoors during the cold months of the year may suddenly develop an allergy as the home is closed up, keeping the dust mites in a confined area.
Diagnosis of Dust Mite Allergy in Cats
The diagnostic tests specific to dust mite allergies is the skin sensitivity test or the serum IgE test for the reaction to Der p1 proteins caused by dust mites. However, other mites, such as the Cheyletiella, Otodectes and Sarcoptes mite, belong to the same order of acarids, therefore, false positives can occur. For example, if your feline has Cheyletiella, she could actually test positive for dust mites too. Your veterinarian will then use your feline’s clinical symptoms to differentiate between the types of mites and retest the feline. The symptoms associated with dust mite allergies in cats mimic those of food allergies, seasonal allergies, environmental allergies and a number of infections, so a differential diagnosis will need to be made. A differential diagnosis may include a skin scraping, skin cell cytology, skin sample culture and blood test.
Treatment of Dust Mite Allergy in Cats
Dust mites allergies in cats are treated with immunotherapy and changes in the environment. Subcutaneous or sublingual administration of cyclosporine corticosteroid drugs is the norm for immunotherapy treatment prescribed by veterinarians for feline dust mite allergies. However, the most important portion of the treatment plan is treating dust mites at home. Vacuuming and cleaning carpets once a week, dusting in combination with routine sweeping will eliminate allergy causing dust mite feces in the home. Cat owners are advised to wash all cat bedding and their own bedding if the feline sleeps in bed with their owners. The washing of bedding can take place once a week in combination with sweeping, dusting and vacuuming.
Recovery of Dust Mite Allergy in Cats
Felines generally respond very well to immunotherapy treatments, but in order to prevent a recurrence, pet owners must keep a clean home. Changing the air filters in your home heating and cooling system can greatly reduce dust mite allergens in the air. Pet owners can also wash their bedding with tea tree oil or steam clean their mattresses, as studies show these methods result in an even higher elimination rate than regular cleaning. There is also a varieties of hypoallergenic pillow cases and bedding available that are said to discourage dust mites.