Safari’s owner felt frustrated. Her young, healthy cat was constantly scratching her neck and causing some very ugly sores. A variety of conditions make cats itchy, so we performed several tests to rule out infectious causes such as skin parasites, fungal infections and bacteria.

Our testing results failed to find any infectious cause for her skin condition. The other cat in the household was not having any problems.

Diagnosing allergies is most often determined by ruling out other common causes of dermatitis and itchiness.

Therapy with antihistamines and steroids is common in allergic cats, but when we see young patients, we like to find ways to control their condition without longterm medication.

In Safari’s case, we took a blood sample and submitted it to a lab for allergy testing. The testing looked for antibodies to specific allergens found in Southern California.

Safari reacted to many allergens, including pine trees, molds, house dust mites, dogs, fleas, grasses and some weeds. Blood testing for allergies is not considered to be completely diagnostic, but most veterinary dermatologists will consider it as part of a patient workup.

Historically, hyposensitization, giving small amounts of allergens to the patient to decrease the allergic reaction, has been done by injections. If you had allergy shots as a kid, you know what I am talking about.

Owners were trained to give these injections under their pet’s skin on a set schedule. It can take up to nine months to see a good response.

In the past year, a type of hyposensitization called sublingual immunotherapy has been gaining in popularity. This therapy uses a liquid formula containing allergens that is sprayed under a patient’s tongue once or twice a day.

Research has shown some impressive responses to this therapy in dogs and cats, and many canine patients that did not respond to injections improved with the oral treatment. Not every patient tolerates the oral spray, but for most owners, this is a reasonable option to try.

Safari showed a very favorable response within a month to her oral therapy with a product called AllerPaws. We started her sublingual treatment about a year ago. To completely manage her allergies, she eats a hypoallergenic diet and intermittently requires a low dose of oral steroid to control itchiness.

Her owner is very happy that her kitty no longer has scabs and raw spots. She is happy that we have been able to minimize Safari’s treatment with steroids since her kitty is only 2 years old.

Allergy treatment can be frustrating, since signs are managed but not cured.

Allergies can be year-round, seasonal or a one-time event. Successful treatment requires patience and working with your veterinarian to see what works best for your pet.

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