Antihistamines for Cats

Antihistamines for Cats

Humans are not the only ones that can suffer from allergies. In fact, cats are often prone to allergies. Keeping your cat’s allergies under control is really important, and one of the best ways to do this is to use antihistamines for cats. Antihistamines are effective when it comes to targeting human allergy symptoms, so it makes sense that it would be effective for your feline friend as well. This is because cats that have allergies produce excessive histamines, so when they come into contact with allergens they have allergic reactions.

Symptoms of Allergies in Cats

First, you need to make sure that you know what signs and symptoms to look for. Most cats that have allergies will have certain symptoms that are tell-tale signs of an allergy. These symptoms include:

  • itching
  • sneezing
  • swelling
  • watery eyes
  • face rubbing
  • excessive scratching
  • excessive licking
  • runny nose

As your cat gets older, you may notice that these symptoms get worse. This is typical as a cat ages. The good news is that antihistamines can actually help to reduce the amount of histamines in the cat’s body, thus reducing the severity of the reaction to the allergens that they come into contact with.

Antihistamines are usually really effective for the first few months, but then the cat may build up an immunity to the components found in the medication. After this time, the histamines may start to build back up causing the same symptoms as before. This is why it is so very important for you to rotate the type of antihistamine that you use for your cat. By doing this, you can prevent any type of immunity that may form, and continue to give your cat the relief that they need.

Most experienced veterinarians will understand the importance of alternating between various different types of antihistamines to ensure that an immunity doesn’t build up. If they don’t recommend it, then it is something worth discussing with them. Unfortunately, many pet owners will go in for the initial visit and get a recommendation for an antihistamine and try to administer it themselves for months at a time before ever going back to the vet. This isn’t recommended, because of the possibility of immunity to certain medications over time.

Types of Antihistamines for Cats

There are a few different types of antihistamine medications that are used to treat cats. There are four that are used most commonly. Some of them you may have heard of before, while some may be unfamiliar to you. They include:

  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Clemastine
  • Cyproheptadine
  • Diphenhydramine

Chlorpheniramine is available in both oral tablets and liquid forms. The typical dosage is between 1 and 4 mg each day, and it is a very effective medication. It is safe to administer during pregnancy, but there are a few side effects reported. Hyperactivity, sedation and dry mouth are among the top side effects noticed with this medication. You shouldn’t use Chlorpheniramine if your cat has high blood pressure, urinary or GI obstructions, heart disease or hyperthyroidism.

Clemastine is probably one of the most common medications used in cats. It is also available in both oral tablet and liquid forms. This product is very similar to Chlorpheniramine as it is also safe during pregnancy, but it can cross into the milk during lactation. It can cause similar side effects like hyperactivity, sedation and dry mouth, and has also been noted to cause diarrhea in some cases. Cats with severe heart disease, or GI or urinary obstructions should avoid this medication.

Cyproheptadine is available in both 2mg and 4mg oral tablets, and it is recommended that cats take .5 to 1mg of the medication twice each day for the best results. It has not been proven 100% to be effective during pregnancy, so if your cat is pregnant it may be a good idea to use a different antihistamine for the duration of the pregnancy. Aside from the same side effects of the other medications, this one can actually increase appetite so you need to make sure that you keep a close eye on their weight to prevent obesity while on the medication.

Diphenhydramine is another antihistamine that is closely related to Benadryl. Don’t confuse it for actual Benadryl though. It is available in both oral tablet and liquid form as well, and the side effects are pretty similar to the other medications.

These are four of the most widely used antihistamines for felines, but that doesn’t mean that others are not effective and safe for your cat. If your cat has been prescribed something that we haven’t mentioned, don’t be alarmed. Chances are your veterinarian knows what they are talking about. These are just a few that are used most commonly.

What About Combination Antihistamines?

Many antihistamines that you see in the stores these days are combination antihistamines that contain other types of medications. These are often used to treat colds, flu and runny nose, and many of them contain decongestants or cough suppressants. Some may even contain acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient found in Tylenol. This is actually deadly for cats, so you have to be really careful. It is not recommended that you give your cat any type of antihistamine that you buy over the counter, unless it is directly recommended by their veterinarian. You can never be too careful. If your vet doesn’t recommend it, chances are there is a good reason for it!

The Effects of Antihistamines

As with any type of medication, there are some risks involved with antihistamines. While we already touched just a bit on the side effects associated with antihistamines in cats, there are a few others that you will want to be aware of, some of which are more severe than others. Here is an extensive list of side effects that are often reported in cats that are taking antihistamines for their allergies:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • coordination deficits
  • digestive issues
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • dry nose
  • dry mouth

If your cat needs to be on antihistamines for a prolonged period of time, there are other concerns that you need to be aware of. Here are a few problems that are associated with long term antihistamine use in cats:

  • behavioral changes
  • vision issues
  • problems with urination

Before you decide to keep your cat on antihistamines for a prolonged period of time, discuss these risks with their veterinarian. It is always a good idea for you to ask questions and get thorough answers so that you can give your cat the best possible care.

Other Forms of Allergy Treatment in Cats

While there are many cats that have a pleasant experience with antihistamines, some cats may not. Also, you don’t want to run the risk of serious complications that may come along with prolonged use of antihistamines. The good news is that there are other treatment methods that you may want to consider. Here are a few of the most common treatment options used among veterinarians today:

Allergy symptoms can also be controlled using steroids, but this should only be a short term treatment options. Steroids, when used for a long time, can actually cause the kidneys to fail and can also lead to other serious and fatal side effects. This is why veterinarians like to try the use of antihistamines first before they even start to think about the possibility of using steroids.

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Another form of treatment that that may be effective is allergy shots. Allergy shots are good for cats that have allergies to dust, pollen and other allergens, but are not effective when it comes to food allergies. They should be given regularly to help your cat build up an immunity to the allergens that irritate them. Over the period of a few years, the allergy may be much less severe, but this does take some time.

If your cat is affected by allergies that cause skin irritation, topical treatments may also be very effective. There are various different shampoos, rinses and other anti-itch products that may be very effective. These solutions are typically short term solutions, but they do provide instant results. The problem with topical solutions and cats is that they like to groom themselves often. They may lick the product off, or at least lick off some of it so that it is not effectively absorbed into their blood stream. This is why so many veterinarians are steering away from topical treatments.

Avoiding The Allergens

You can always attempt to try to prevent the allergies by avoiding the allergens. This is usually a lot easier said than done. That means that you have to actually determine what type of allergens affect your cat, and that can be pretty pricey. It typically requires you to have skin testing done to determine the types of allergens that bother your pet. If you are lucky enough to know the allergens that affect your cat, here are a few things that you can do to avoid them:

  1. To avoid dust in your home, keep your pets away when you are dusting and vacuuming. Let the dust settle before you allow them back into the room.
  2. To avoid dust mites, use plastic covers over your pet’s bedding, and wash their bedding regularly. Don’t buy stuffed toys, and try to keep your pets in the rooms that are not carpeted. When it is warm outside, it is recommended that you run your air conditioner to help to keep the dust mites at bay.
  3. To avoid mold, it is recommended that you keep your cat out of basements and attics. You should also keep them inside when you are doing lawn maintenance. Switch to non-dusty cat litter as well. It is also a good idea to set up a dehumidifier to help keep the air clean in your home. Avoiding an excessive number of house plants is also a good idea, because they can harbor mold and other allergens.
  4. To avoid pollen, keep your pet indoors when the pollen level is high in your area. If they do get outside into tall grass or weeds, then you need to make sure that you brush them off.

While avoidance isn’t always possible, it is always a good idea to try to keep your pet away from the things that trigger their allergies. Sometimes, they may have more than one allergen and it is next to impossible to keep them away from every little thing that may trigger their allergies.

When to Talk to Your Veterinarian

So, you have tried avoidance, and nothing seems to be working. It may be time for you to see your veterinarian. If you haven’t already addressed your cat’s allergies with your vet, it may be time to do so. In fact, it is recommended that you discuss it with them right away, even if you don’t think that any medication is necessary. They will be able to assess the severity of the allergies and give their recommendation for the best course of treatment. While they may go ahead and recommend antihistamines right away, some may want to start out with other methods of treatment first.

Antihistamines for cats may actually be a great method for treating allergies. If you are unsure about how to effectively administer antihistamines to your cat, talk to their veterinarian. In fact, you don’t want to give them any type of antihistamines that the vet doesn’t either prescribe or recommend for them.

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One Response

  1. Really helpful article! My Flash has flea allergies, I spoke to his vet today and she recommended chlorpheniramine but it doesn’t seem to be working so I’m glad there are other options.

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