Hay fever in cats is not to be sneezed at …
April 21, 2023
As pleased as we are to welcome the warmer spring weather, for many of us it is a mixed blessing, bringing with it itchy eyes, sneezes and runny noses.
You may not be aware that our pets can also suffer from hay fever, and find it equally uncomfortable. Hay fever is actually one of the most common conditions in cats and tends to strike during spring and summer, causing both discomfort and in many cases months of misery.
At Clarendon Street Veterinary Surgery we see many cats suffering from grass or tree pollen allergies. This area of the country is particularly bad for hay fever sufferers, as there is a lot of agricultural activity, combined with dryer weather (wind and rain may be no fun but it does help to suppress and disperse pollen.)
While in humans hay fever tends to mostly affect the eyes and respiratory tract, in cats it’s often their skin that suffers. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to help, so read on to find out more …
Understanding & treating cat hay fever
1. Symptoms of hay fever in cats
- Excessive licking & scratching, particularly on the ears and bottom
- Sores or bald patches around your cat’s face, neck, lower back, groin, tail or paws
- Itchy eyes
- Snoring – from an inflamed throat
- Paw chewing
While often linked to fleas, excessive licking and scratching can also be caused by an allergic reaction to pollen.
2. Check for fleas
As the symptoms are similar, it’s important to rule a possible flea infestation first. You can do this by parting your cat’s fur in various places – narrow toothed flea combs are ideal for this – and looking for:
- Tiny black/brown insects moving and jumping
- Flea dirt (faeces) – tiny dark specs that turn red when blotted with water on kitchen towel
Check your cat (and any other cats and dogs in your home) are up to date with prescription flea treatments and contact us if you’ve run out.
3. How we treat hay fever
If you think your cat could be suffering from hay fever, book an appointment at the surgery so we can give them a full check over. We will also check for fleas and other forms of parasites that could be making them itchy. We may prescribe some medication to treat any symptoms, such as sore skin, and make them more comfortable, or in some cases anti-histamines to suppress the itching.
If problems persist there are further tests we can do to discover exactly what pollens are causing the discomfort. There will then be the option of ongoing medication to suppress the symptoms, or in some cases immunotherapy vaccines to try to slowly desensitise your cat to the offending allergens.
IMPORTANT: Never give your cat antihistamines or any human medication without the explicit instruction of a vet. Some ingredients may be toxic to cats and the dosage will likely differ.
4. Can you prevent it?
As human hay fever sufferers know, it’s tough to avoid pollens. However, as well as anti-allergy injections or antihistamines, there are some natural methods that might help too:
- Run a damp cloth and a brush over your cat’s fur when they come in from outdoors to remove some of the pollen.
- Evening primrose oil has been proven effective in reducing allergic reactions. The liquid form can usually be added to cat food – always check with us first before using any alternative treatments so we can ensure the dose and type of treatment are suitable for your cat.
If, after reading this, you still have questions, you can always get bin touch and the team will be happy to offer further advice.