Cats Suffering from an Allergy on Steroid Treatment

Bigfoot (polydactyl cat) has an allergy

Photo by Dorothy

The default treatment for an allergic reaction in a cat is a steroid jab and/or prednisone, a steroid tablet. The treatment could be a combination antibiotic/steroid jab.”It is the only treatment they [vets] can offer”.

“…This is the 3rd vet I’ve been to in the past 9 months who won’t give my cat anything else except steroids. I really want to get my cat off of steroids though because he is acting hyper and crazy, and I’ve heard that steroids are not healthy physically….”5

I have read through the section on allergies in The Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook (“Vet Handbook”). It makes somewhat depressing reading because the gist of what I read is that there is no cure. Vets don’t have a good method of treating allergies suffered by cats. Corticosteroids are prescribed but “they do not cure the problem”, the authors state. Allergies in cats, especially asthma, are increasing. More people are discussing the problem. Apparently one third of allergies are caused by food4.

An allergic reaction in a cat is caused by the cat’s immune system overreacting to something eaten, inhaled or in the environment. A allergen causes the reaction. Exposure must have occurred at least twice. There are thousands of potential allergens and a lot of them are in modern products (a 20th century phenomenon). That is the problem. How do you discover what allergen is causing the allergic reaction? It is very difficult and time consuming to investigate the source of an allergy.

This is why the default or fallback treatment is to make the cat more comfortable but not to cure the cat. However, sometimes, the symptoms do indicate a specific allergen such as the flea bite which causes small red blisters on the skin or at least it did for Charlie, my cat. The problem with the flea bite allergy is that it is all but impossible to prevent a single flea bite and it only takes one.

Hypersensitization can help. This entails using injections of flea allergens of increasing strength which desensitises the cat’s immune system. It requires long term treatment.

There has been a spate a allergic reactions in the PoC community. Charlie had a flea bite allergy and was give a steroid injection. It helped for about 6 weeks. A year later he has not suffered from the allergy during the summer of 2013. Not sure why but the reason is probably because there are no cat fleas this year as far as I can see.

Jozef has an allergy and was given antibiotic/steroid injection and Bigfoot, living with DW has an allergy and is receiving steroids. It caused Bigfoot to “leak” urine from time to time.

“….the last two rounds of steroid treatments, at the minimum dose of half a pill every other day, Bigfoot started to leak urine. I asked the vet about it and he said it isn’t common for cats, especially male cats, to leak. He [the vet] doesn’t think it is the steroids, yet the problem stops when I stop the steroids completely….”

Steroids and Leaking Urine

Leaking urine is urinary incontinence. The Vet Handbook does not connect steroid injections with urinary incontinence. However, on the internet there are pages describing the connection. Steroids can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. The cause can be due to excessive drinking and to a suppressed immune system leading to a bladder infection. Apparently steroids can increase the production of urine1. Cats on long term steroids, can develop bacterial cystitis because of lowered immunity. This can cause leaking urine.

Conclusion: a cat on steroids leaking urine may be incontinent because of the steroids but there are other causes.

Side Effects of Corticosteroids

These are short and long term. Short-term effects can include lethargy and increased urination. A cat can get more infections due to a suppressed immune system. Long term side effects include: predisposition to secondary bacterial infections and fungal infections. Urinary tract infections. Obesity. Thinning of skin and coat. Steroids may cause Cushing’s Disease2.

Is there any other treatment for allergies in cats?

Best cure: avoid the allergen, the thing that causes the overreaction. It can be almost impossible to do that.

High-dose essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements can help.

Shampoos are recommended for skin allergies.

Holistic treatments. Holistic vets say that cats eat more than 100 synthetic chemicals in their food and water every day. They believe that the increased incidence of feline allergies is due to problems with the gastrointestinal system.

They would recommend (a) filtered water (b) feeding antioxidant supplements (c) avoiding commercial diet including hypoallergenic foods. Fresh made diets are recommended. Care should be exercised.

Homeopathy is controversial. They would treat the cat by giving small but increasing doses of desensitising injections. Extremely diluted preparations are made from the relevant antigen3. There is the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons where you can find a vet who practices homeopathy in the UK.

Hebalism is also controversial. Fennel seed and cumin root can help repair the lining of the small intestines. Tumeric root can have anti-inflammatory properties. Echinacea can boost the immune system. Oil of peppermint can clear nasal congestion. Ginkgo and aloe vera have anti-inflammatory properties. Khella reduces bronchial constriction. Being realistic, I don’t believe cat caretakers will take up these options mainly because you’ll be hard pressed to find a vet who can advise. But see Feline Herbal Medicine.

Dr Shawn “Pet Care Naturally” – note: this site does not get many visits, which realistically, tells me that the average person does not believe it. Here is his video:

Conclusion

I have to conclude that there are more cats suffering from an allergy than before and vets don’t have a cure. The uncomfortable symptoms are treated.

Refs:

  1. naturalhealthtechniques.com
  2. vcahospitals.com
  3. “a substance that when introduced into the body stimulates the production of an antibody” – Free Dictionary.
  4. The Natural Health Cat Care Manual
  5. Yahoo answers — a desperate cat owner looking for alternatives to steroids.
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Comments

Cats Suffering from an Allergy on Steroid Treatment — 16 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article Michael, it’s a minefield and very worrying to have a cat with unknown allergies and I wonder if the first, second or third vet we saw with Jozef had given him a course of steroids he wouldn’t have got as bad.
    I think these days all would be vets should do some training about allergies before qualifying!
    The sneezy cough Jo had was hard to describe, he didn’t ever do it at the vets, but then of course he hadn’t been licking himself recently with being in the cat basket for the journey.
    Washing himself seemed to set it off so we assume it’s something he picked up on his coat, not food.
    Just hoping when he finishes this course of steroids whatever it was doesn’t return, thankfully the weather has cooled down and pollen lessened and we can only hope that makes a difference.

    • It is a minefield. I wish my research came up with something more certain and clear cut. Sadly no. Ironically the conclusion was certain. Steroids are the standard answer.

      These best thing is to try and get your cat to live in a pure, natural environment eating good quality homemade cat food. Not many people can do that.

  2. Wow, great article Michael. Lots of research. I feel better about coming to my own conclusions regarding the leaking. Vets should listen to good cat caretakers more carefully. I don’t let my imagination run wild, I just observe, and use common sense and some sixth sense as well. I trust myself. I don’t think I would say no to another small round of steroids if Bigfoot needed the relief, but it will always be a last resort. Also, the steroid tablets are better than the injection because you can have more control about how much is going in. I would be willing to try any holistic method if it were easy to administer. If it is something the cat has to eat, probably not so much. (Bigfoot is so fussy) but anything I can put into capsule form, or comes in pill form, I would’t hesitate to try. After research of course.

    • I just observe, and use common sense and some sixth sense as well. I trust myself.

      Now, that is how we do it. People with intelligence who are observant. That means more than people give credit for. It is how I do things. You know what, DW, I think we (modern human) have created an environment that is not good for the domestic cat because of all the unnatural products we manufacture for cats and humans. The modern environment and modern cat food is not in tune enough with the domestic cat. The domestic cat is one step from a wild cat for God’s sake. African wildcats don’t eat chemicals. They don’t inhale chemicals.

      I’ll tell you, I bet the community cats of Morocco (for example) do not suffer from cat allergies in the same way that cats in the West do. Commercialization of cats = problems on so many levels.

    • Dorothy, maybe I missed this before, but is Bigfoot a poly? I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the allergy thing.

      • Yes he is polydactyl. HUGE feet. Way too many toes. I take him to have his nails clipped, and thank goodness they don’t charge by the toe! (I’m not sure why he bites me when I try to do it myself, but he doesn’t bite the technitians.)

        • HI Dorothy! Thanks for the quick reply.

          I gather from reports on an earlier post that he is doing better.

          I have a special fondness for polys. Tootsie, my rescue Maine coon, is poly. Tootsie is totally uncooperative as to any intervention by me, of any sort. Yet, she is “Ms. Perfect” at the vets. There is absolutely no way I could trim her nails/ claws.

          B/c of boarding and various medical issues, she has been to the vets… clipping her claws was what they did at my request. Time before last she had an ingrown claw on her poly thumb, which I hadn’t spotted. First time that’s happened. Last time around (other medical issues) I told vet techs not to clip her claws unless there was problem. Tootsie loves her claws! She is a very good cat, and only claws the cat towers. It’s part of her exercise routine.

          I know that there is no “standard” configuration for poly paws. Well, I think that is the case.

          I would love to know more about Bigfoot’s history. You may have given the info before, but if so I missed it.

          • Hi Valley Girl, Thanks for asking. I am a POCer, so you know I love to talk about my cats! I did a quick search here because I was curious myself when the first post I wrote about Bigfoot. It was the same week he walked into my life. I was researching cats on the internet, and of course POC was the first five on the google list. Maybe Michael can tell me what the date of that first post was. Since Michael changed servers, everything says May 25, 2012.

            I think it was five years ago. Maybe only four.

            I can’t imagine Bigfoot being a stray, living alone outside, but he was. He was skinny, funny looking and sort of an odd duck. He chose me, and I’m glad of it. He was probably dumped by someone losing their house. It was common around that time.

            He has mostly been healthy. But he did have a weird urinary tract infection a few years ago that was a midnight emergency run. His allergies have been the most persistent, but only once a year, and he even skipped a year. He is a funny little guy. He taught dog Daisy how to be around cats, though never cuddled up to her. Bigfoot is a one person cat. Even to me, his personal human, he is a bit snarky. One false move on my part and WAP! I get a bite or a scratch. Even now, after all these years. Even in the middle of the night. I have a little bruise on my arm now where he bit me. He snuggles soon after always, so whatever the transgression was, I never really know.

            Scratching is not why I have his nails trimmed. I do it because he too has thumb nails that curl into his paw. And, he doesn’t retract all the way, so he sticks to the carpet when he walks. He is happy when they are trimmed. He is old enough now that he doesn’t jump very far. I have a pet stairway “to heaven” as I call it, for climbing on the bed. He wasn’t quite making it, so I gave him a boost with pet stairs. He uses his corrugated cat scratcher regularly.

            I’m not exactly sure how many toes he has. I’ve asked them to count, but I get funny answers like “he has little tiny toes hiding everywhere”. He won’t let me look.

            History, I have no idea. I thought he was Main Coon, but Michael corrected me. Common moggy! Well, he is no commoner.

            This is his before and after picture. On the left, the day he walked onto my porch.

            • Thanks again Dorothy!

              Okay, Michael has assignment- find the first Bigfoot post!

              Sounds like from what you describe that he really does have to have his claws trimmed. As I said, no standard “poly paw”. Seems like Tootsie’s poly paw structure is not as troublesome as Bigfoot’s (the carpet comment).

              Tootsie doesn’t bite- but whenever I try to get “up close and personal”, like a) touch her paws or b)try to apply tick/ flea medication, she for a) walks away, or for b) struggles with every muscle she has to escape. She is 10 years old, and small by MC standards, but she is one strong cat.

              Re: Bigfoot and MCs- when I saw the second picture (in comments) I immediately thought… hmmm… looks like some Maine coon heritage there. But, Michael is correct, of course. And, it really doesn’t matter (the breed thing).

            • Good for you DW. Poly cats do need their extra claws trimming because the claws can off the ground and not worn down so they can grow very long and can curl into the toe pad. You know that better than me having first hand experience.

              • Thanks Michael. Wow, so only four years almost exactly. There is no real date on it, but based your the first comment, from you of course, that would make it fall of 2009. Thank you. Now I know. I feel like I’ve been with him many more years.

                I hope I didn’t make it sound like it is all bites and scratches. He and I have a wonderful relationship. His moods mirror mine. If I don’t focus on him completely, meaning pet him with my mind on something else, he knows it and let’s me know. Swap!

    • Rudolph, do you know exactly what she is allergic to and then avoid it? I’d be interested to know how you deal with it and how you discovered she was allergic to certain fish products.

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