What is Metal Allergy?
There are some cats that cannot tolerate certain metals so they will start showing signs of allergy in one or two days after exposure. One of the most obvious signs of metal allergy is painless ulcers on the lips or inside the mouth, which is called eosinophilic granuloma. Even though it is not painful, it may be uncomfortable when eating so it is imperative that you get it checked out by a veterinary professional. Because these types of allergies are usually delayed, not showing up for days after exposure, it makes it more difficult to determine what the allergen is.
Your cat’s food or water bowls could be causing your cat to get lesions in the mouth, face, and skin due to allergy. Some cats are allergic to nickel, but others are allergic to all kinds of metals. It could also be the collar or a certain toy your cat is playing with. Metal allergies are quite common, and it may take a while to figure out that it is something metal causing the reaction. While metal allergies are not usually too serious, some cats can have a condition called anaphylactic shock which closes the throat and can be fatal within minutes. It is vitally important to get your cat to a veterinary hospital right away. They can stop the swelling and then find out what your cat is allergic to so it does not happen again.
Symptoms of Metal Allergy in Cats
Even though the symptoms usually take more than 24 hours to become apparent, if it is caused by a metal food or water bowl, they will be a constant issue and may continue to get worse. Some of these symptoms are:
- Intense scratching anywhere on the body but most often the head and neck
- Biting and chewing on certain spots that itch
- Red watery eyes
- Large ulcer on top lip or inside mouth
- Sores on the feet or inner thighs
- Irritated red skin
- Constant grooming
There are four types of allergies in cats, which include:
- Immediate hypersensitivity is also called type I and is usually noticed right away; this kind of allergy is caused by cells that overreact to a certain food or other allergen
- Antibody hypersensitivity, or type II, is controlled by the body’s antibody system, which attacks its own cells
- Immune complex hypersensitivity, type III, is from the immune system overreacting, causing antibody-antigen complexes to form and get stuck in vital organs such as the kidney
- Delayed hypersensitivity, also known as type IV, is a genetic allergy that does not show up until 24 hours after being exposed to the allergen
Causes of Metal Allergy in Cats
If your cat has a metal allergy, certain antibodies called IgE are made to attack the allergen (metal), which creates histamines that are released into the body, causing rash, skin itching, and gastric upset. It may also cause a dangerous effect called anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition that can cause your cat’s throat to swell enough to suffocate and become lethal.
Diagnosis of Metal Allergy in Cats
To diagnose your dog, there are special blood tests (radioallergosorbent test and allergen-specific IgE antibody test) as well as skin tests that can be done. However, first the veterinarian will need to do a complete physical assessment and get your pet’s medical history. Make sure you tell the veterinarian if you have given your cat any medication because that can complicate the diagnosis and treatment. Once that is done, the veterinarian will obtain some blood samples to run diagnostic tests. The allergy tests should give the veterinarian an idea of whether your cat is suffering from an allergy. However, additional tests will be done to eliminate other causes of the symptoms before deciding whether or not your dog has allergies.
Treatment of Metal Allergy in Cats
The treatment for metal allergy is usually just treating the symptoms and removing all metal from everywhere your cat is able to go. Treating the rash and ulcers will include oral and topical steroids. In addition, if there is significant inflammation or redness from scratching, a corticosteroid injection will be given.
Hydrocortisone ointment and oral antihistamines such as Benadryl are helpful for itching and inflammation. The veterinarian may also suggest or prescribe special shampoo to help soothe the skin. An antibiotic may also be needed to prevent a secondary infection from scratching.
Recovery of Metal Allergy in Cats
Metal allergies are easy to prevent once you are able to determine that is what the problem is. Just use ceramic or plastic cat food bowls and make sure there are no traces of metal in anything that your cat may be exposed to. In fact, some elements have been found in cat foods including nickel, lead, copper, uranium, and even arsenic. Your best bet is to talk to your veterinarian about what pet food is safest for your pet.