What is Pollen Allergy?
Among the most common allergies in cats as well as humans, pollens are small particles involved in plant germination. Pollen is mostly an issue in spring and summer though may be present in the fall as well. An environmental allergen, pollen won’t usually cause the excessive sneezing and coughing in your cat that it does in humans.
The pollen will fall on their fur, ears and foot pads and will be absorbed into their skin through those areas. This will lead to your cat biting, licking and scratching themselves a lot as they try to relieve some of the itchiness they are feeling. These actions can lead to their losing hair and developing scabs and ear infections.
When a cat is experiencing an allergy to pollen, whether it is inhaled or gets on their skin, it is the result of their immune system overreacting to the irritant.
Symptoms of Pollen Allergy in Cats
Should your cat experience an allergy to pollen, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Scratching, biting and/or licking his skin
- Hair loss
- Coughing/breathing difficulties
- Facial and limb swelling
- Appearing lethargic
Rarely, pollen can cause anaphylactic shock which can lead to swelling in the airways of your cat. This can be fatal and requires emergency medical attention.
There are many allergens that can impact your cat. Allergies are usually divided into 3 categories: flea allergy, environmental allergy and food allergy. There are numerous types of pollens, an environmental allergen, that can impact your cat. Other environmental allergens include grass, plants, mold and mildew.
Causes of Pollen Allergy in Cats
The environment has a variety of irritants like pollen which can be inhaled or can get on your cat’s skin and cause irritation. Some cats will experience an allergy to pollen; their immune system will not recognize it and consider it to be a threat. This will cause histamines to be produced and will lead to the symptoms that you see in your cat.
Diagnosis of Pollen Allergy in Cats
Your veterinarian will examine your cat and ask you about the symptoms you have noticed, when you first noticed them and what changes you have observed. If skin symptoms are present in your cat, your veterinarian will likely take a scraping from his skin so that your cat’s skin cells can be examined under a microscope. Your veterinarian will look at the skin cells to see if parasites, yeast or bacteria are causing his symptoms. A skin test can be performed with the allergens that your veterinarian suspects, or a blood test can be given which may show that antibodies have been secreted in response to different pollens.
Treatment of Pollen Allergy in Cats
While you cannot get rid of pollen allergies, they can be managed. Though antihistamines do not work for all cats, they are an easy remedy to try should your cat have a pollen allergy. Antihistamines will stop the immune system from producing histamines, which will minimize the allergy symptoms your cat experiences. Consult with your veterinarian before trying an antihistamine so that you can be sure you are giving your cat an appropriate dose. If using antihistamines for more than three months, you should discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of rotating different medications so that your cat does not become immune to the drug.
Corticosteroids are another option for treatment and are very effective for skin rashes and swelling that your cat is experiencing. Unfortunately, corticosteroids can have serious side effects, particularly when taken in high doses over a long period of time.
Should you be able to determine which pollens your cat is reacting to, allergy shots may be helpful in order to decrease your cat’s sensitivity to them. Often, your cat can experience bacterial and yeast skin infections secondary to the allergy. Should this occur, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication.
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Recovery of Pollen Allergy in Cats
While it is not possible to completely avoid pollen, keeping your cat indoors will minimize his exposure to the environmental allergen. There are shampoos and rinses as well as topical-solutions that will help offer short-term relief from itching for your cat. Your veterinarian may recommend a topical solution with hydrocortisone in order to give your cat some immediate relief to the itching he is experiencing. These ointments should be used in areas where your cat is unable to lick it off. Fortunately, when used in moderation long-term side effects are not seen. Other ways that you can help your cat include:
- Wiping his paws and coat with a damp towel to get pollen off of him. This can be done several times a day
- Wet your cat’s fur with a spray including oatmeal and aloe
- Provide your cat with fish oil caplets; these contain omega-3 fatty acids which can decrease the inflammation he is experiencing and minimize his reaction to the pollen