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Atopy in Cats

By: Dr. Mark Thompson

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Atopy varies considerably in intensity depending on the individual animal and its environment. Therefore, home monitoring and close communication with your veterinarian are vital for success. Treatment is most likely to be effective if individualized to the patient. Follow-up for atopy may include the following:

  • Administer as directed all medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Treatment often fails because medications are stopped as soon as improvement is seen or before sufficient time has been allowed for improvement to occur. Administer medications for the full time period prescribed unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.

  • Remember to have patience with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy should be tried for 9 to 12 months before concluding that it has been a failure.

  • Observe cats on immunotherapy for signs of increased itchiness (i.e., pruritus), hives or swelling after injections. Although uncommon, cats may react to the allergen extract. Alterations in the injection schedule may be helpful to alleviate these problems. Severe reactions (i.e., anaphylaxis) may be life-threatening, but fortunately are extremely rare.

  • Cats receiving immunotherapy may improve after one injection but begin to scratch before the next injection is due. Shortening the interval between injections may help. Always consult your veterinarian before making changes in the injection interval. Schedules may become complicated. Keep a log of how much extract was given and record the date of the injections.

  • Observe your cat for rashes, pustules, infected ears or any other skin lesions that may occur secondary to scratching. Flare-ups of these problems may occur while waiting for generalized improvement and will need to be treated appropriately.

  • Avoidance of allergens usually is impractical due either to the ubiquity of the allergen (e.g., house dust mites) or the large number of offending allergens. However, in-home air filters may be helpful.

  • Cats with seasonal atopy may not require medications during certain parts of the year. Close observation and good record-keeping may identify times when medications are not needed.

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