Developing a cat flea allergy is a nasty experience for a cat. Once you identify the problem and effective treatments you will feel a lot more capable about dealing with it.
Most flea problems ‘sneak up’ on cats and owners and catch both “unawares”! But now there are some great ways to keep your cat comfortable. Follow these strategies and prevent your pet cat having a miserable allergy.
How your cat develops an allergy to cat fleas
Fleas bother a feline when they run around on the skin, and when they bite. However, unlike dogs (and humans) who will scratch at an itch, cats do not show ‘itchiness’. They tend more to overgroom in an attempt to calm their skin and ironically, this can exacerbate the problem.
Licking calms a cat down by releasing endorphins (brain opiates) so they actually relax themselves by grooming.
The bigger problems arise
- because blood parasites transmitted by fleas (‘cat scratch disease’ and ‘feline anaemia’ are carried between cats by fleas)
- from the tapeworms that cats digest from eating the flea while grooming
- and from the irritation of the flea saliva which culminates – in susceptible cats – in flea allergy to the cat flea itself. Read more ugly cat flea facts…
How to spot a cat flea allergy
Unfortunately, once the cat has a flea allergy then one bite from a flea will trigger an allergic cascade. Not much fun for the affected feline.
In susceptible cats, an allergy can manifest in a number of ways.
Skin scabs, or bald patches, are the main signs and there may be welts and red patches on their skin, often on their hind legs. There may be other associated problems such as furballs from the frantic grooming that these cats sometimes display. Cats have even been known to have an epileptic fit after a flea bite.
Plus there is the blood parasite within the flea –Haemobartonella felis, that sits on the red blood cells and causes them to rupture, leading to a type of anaemic death. These cats get fevers and jaundice, and can become quite ill.
Recently a kitten I treated was just not growing or doing well. He even had a heart murmur. It turned out it was all due to a low-grade infection of H. felis and the associated anaemia so it can be present at all ages and really confuse a diagnosis.
How to treat a cat flea allergy
Treatment for cats with such strong reactions to flea bites needs to be pretty efficient and persistent, but you can make most of these cats happy again.
There are 4 parts to cat flea allergy treatment which your vet can help you with:
1. Kill the cat fleas on the cat either with regular cat combing or cat flea treatments. NB flea combing WON’T help a flea allergic cat – by the time you FIND a flea, the damage is done allergy-wise. But combing the fleas off a cat who has a flea control product on them will speed up the elimination of the source of irritation to the cat – little flea loaders!)
2. Clean up the environment flea egg and pupae before they can get onto and bite the cat! Discover more about cleaning up the home…
3. Reduce the cat’s allergic reaction to the flea bite (usually with cortisone, sometimes with antihistamines)
Discover more product specific information.
4. Improve the cat’s skin resistance to allergies with Omega-3 supplements, other cat flea remedies and (surprising as it may seem!) washing the cat.
So in conclusion, you can control your pet getting a flea allergy by being eternally vigilant, especially during the flea season in summer. And if your pet is showing any of the signs of a flea allergy waste no time in getting her to the vet.