It's springtime! Love is in the air, and so is pollen.
That's right, it's allergy season. Have you started sneezing yet? If not, don't worry, it's coming. It's coming for our pets, too, in the form of itching. This does not mean all itchy pets in the spring have inhaled allergies.
Inhaled allergies most often do manifest with pruritis or itchiness, especially in dogs. Cats do not usually show pruritis with inhaled allergies, which then begs the question, why is Tortuga scratching?
Tortuga is a 4-year-old male house cat who has recently been scratching and biting himself. When Cassandra pets Tortuga, she can feel scablike lesions along his back. Cassandra believes some kind of allergy is causing the lesions and points to the pollen in the trees in her yard.
Tortuga has miliary dermatitis, which most often is associated with an allergy to fleas. Cats will actually chew and scratch themselves to the point of traumatizing the skin and causing scablike lesions.
We often do not see fleas on these cats because even one bite can set off a reaction. The saliva from the flea bite gets into the bloodstream and starts a chain reaction that leads to extreme pruritis. This can occur anywhere on the body regardless of the location of the bite because the reaction is within the body and not just at the local bite zone. The second reason we seldom find fleas on these cats is because of their incessant grooming habits.
Cats with flea allergies need fastidious flea control. Many of these cases can be managed with topical flea prevention, such as Frontline, but some need to be given an oral product as well. I like to use Capstar, which when given orally, kills all the fleas on the cat with no residual effect.
The pruritis these cats deal with is very uncomfortable and needs to be relieved while the underlying problem, the fleas, are controlled. A corticosteroid, either a long-acting injection or one given orally over time, will relieve the severe pruritis while the flea control program kicks in.
Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.