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One of my strictly-indoor cats was recently diagnosed with allergies (via a blood test, which reported a whole list of food and environmental allergies).

The veternarian dermatologist is recommending allergen immunotherapy (a series of shots), but since that can take up to a year to be effective wants us to also treat her with at least 6 months of immunosuppressive drug therapy (methylprednisolone is what they've been using).

My concerns with this proposed treatment are

  • increased risk of diabetes and weight gain in cats with long term prednisolone use, and this cat is already overweight
  • interaction between prednisolone and her arthritis medication (metacam), we've been advised not to give the two simultaneously, but the behavioral improvements when we treat her arthritis are significant enough that I don't want to not treat it for 6 months.
  • two previous shots of prednisolone have not eliminated her itching (it's hard to tell if they've reduced it)

What other options for managing her allergies do we have? The list of environmental allergens is so extensive that elimination is not a possibility.

Her allergy results:

The food panel revealed large number of reactions with foods that should definitely be avoided being: chicken, turkey, pork, sweet potato, beef, wheat, and potato. Additionally, there were numerous environmental reactions which include numerous grasses, fescue, orchard, johnson, bermuda, sweet vernal grass, and timothy grass, numerous trees including: oak, maple, mulberry, hickory, and birch, numerous weeds including: lamb's quarters, ragweed, marsh elder, english plantain and russian thistle, several dust mites and storage mites, feathers, flea, mosquitos, cockroach and numerous molds including Malassezia, Fusiarium, Aspergillus and Alternaria.

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In humans there are two standard methods:

  • antihistamines
  • "shots" (typically injections of the allergen into the bloodstream, the immune system then recognizes the things (proteins of external origin) are not actually indicating a massive infection.

There is the feeling that increase allergies among humans in the developed world is a result of living in too clean an environment. More exposure to stuff can result in allergies calming down, some even advocate "benign" parasites (since someone with allergies is also at risk of getting auto immune conditions). The benign parasites are either ones that don't cause hideous problems or ones that are actually adapted for a different animal and can't do the full lifecycle in the one getting the treatment. That type of treatment is largely used as an experimental way of combating auto-immune disorders in people.

I'm surprised the shots take 6 mo for full effect on the cats I thought it was quicker with humans.

I'd be concerned about immunosuppressive therapy and would lean to the shots.

Good luck.

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One of my cats has allergies too -- in this case primarily food allergies, but my vet believes there are environmental factors too.

First, there are vets who specialize in dermatology; if you haven't seen a specialist yet, you might inquire about that. My regular vet (who is not a slacker :-) ) was not aware of some of the options the specialist offered me.

The specialist is treating my cat with a combination of two factors: a topical flea treatment (yes, really -- some apparently help with allergy symptoms too) and a non-steroid oral medication (Atopica; I do not profit from mentioning them). As an alternative to the latter she had also offered what she described as a "conventional" allergy medicine (injections), one that would be tuned to my cat's specific allergies (after we did the blood panel to identify them). I do not know the name or specific type of this medicine, but she said it would take about six months to start working. Atopica is newer and she said it has had mixed results, but that I would see results (if I were going to see them) within a month. She also felt that it had fewer harmful side-effects; she specifically mentioned that it is not a steroid.

My cat has responded well to this and, over the course of the last nine months or so, we have been able to gradually reduce the dose without his symptoms getting worse. One warning, though -- the stuff apparently tastes foul. (It's a liquid.)

That's on the treatment side. The other half of the problem is reducing exposure to allergens. Because food allergies were involved, I switched to a prescription diet recommended by my vet for combating allergies, but in the end I was able to go back to regular, commercial food after we identified the specific allergens. (The prescription diet is very expensive, comparatively speaking.) The one protein source I don't see listed among your cat's allergies is fish, so perhaps if you stick to the fish/seafood flavors you'll be ok there. (Note: I don't know how much wheat there is in commercial canned food; I presume you wouldn't be able to use dry with those allergies.)

For the environmental factors, it's largely a matter of limiting exposure. Keep your cat indoors (if you don't already) to avoid many of the plants on that list. For dust, mites, and other indoor hazards, I know people with allergies who've mitigated that with air-filter systems and/or more-frequent cleaning. You can't eliminate allergens, but if you reduce them, in combination with treatment, you should be able to make your cat more comfortable.

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Here are some thing that should help. I don't know if they will be sufficient on their own, or in combination with the shots. Most of my experience is based on being an allergic human.

  • There are special cat foods that should avoid problems with the food allergies.
  • Keeping your cat indoors should dramatically lessen the problems with grass, weed, and tree allergies.
  • For the dust mite and storage mite allergies, use a non-allergenic pillowcase liner over her bedding. You can get these in most places where (human) sheets and pillowcases are sold. Also, vacuum regularly. It's best if you have a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Years ago, that type of vacuum cleaner used to be very costly, now not so much.
  • If you have problems with dampness and mold in your house... consult an expert, I guess?

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