VET TALK: Daisy the Persian cat's story gets under the skin of solutions to allergy problems
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Daisy was a beautiful white Persian cat whose owner had brought her in on a few occasions with itchy inflamed skin and hair loss.
A seasonal pattern was noted on checking when these episodes occurred and after further work ups and a referral to a dermatologist, it was confirmed Daisy had Atopic skin disease.
Atopic dermatitis (Atopy) is a skin condition generally caused by an allergy to something in the environment, such as tree or grass pollens, moulds, or dust mites. It causes symptoms such as itchy, inflamed skin, a rash and fur loss and can develop at any age and in any breed of cat, although it is more common in certain breeds, such as the Abyssinian and Devon Rex.
Overall quite rare in cats, before diagnosing it your vet will want to rule out other more common causes of itchy skin, such as fleas and flea-bite dermatitis.
Treatment for atopy often includes avoiding the things your cat is allergic to, medications to alleviate the itch, immunotherapy to control the allergic response and skin supplements to ensure a healthy skin.
As well as itchy skin other symptoms include over-grooming (licking, chewing, biting), hair loss, and hair thinning especially over the head, neck, sides, tummy armpits and inner thighs, an inflamed rash, recurrent ear infections and flaky and thickened skin.
Blood and skin tests can be used to try to find out what your cat is allergic to with the latter more reliable.
If your cat has chronic atopy they will often need lifelong management involving medicines; immunotherapy vaccination treatments to try to counter the allergic response; and managing and avoiding the suspected allergy “triggers”.
It is possible to reduce exposure to some allergens by vacuuming and dusting regularly; keeping affected cats indoors when the seasonal pollen count is high; and by not using air fresheners and other irritant sprays.
Antibiotics may be necessary if your cat develops a secondary skin infection because of severe skin inflammation or eardrops if they develop a secondary ear infection. If your cat has undergone testing to find out what they are allergic to, they can also be given tailor-made immunotherapy vaccines to reduce the allergic reaction they experience.
Immunotherapy does not work for every cat and additional anti-itch medications are still often needed to reduce symptoms.
Skin supplements aim to improve general skin health and can assist in providing and promoting a good, strong skin barrier.
Your vet may also recommend a special prescription diet to keep your cat’s skin as healthy as possible.
Your cat may have “flare-ups” from time to time, but by working closely with your vet, or veterinary dermatologist, you will be able to catch and treat their symptoms quickly.
Daisy has responded very well to her advised medical treatments, which are used for her seasonal skin allergies over the spring and summer months.
Atopy can cause a lot of distress and discomfort.
Having constantly itchy, sore skin can make a cat very miserable, but with a successful treatment and a good long-term management plan in place, they can have a much more comfortable life.
Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant with Crown Vets in Inverness.