Anaphylaxis in Cats
Anaphylaxis is an emergency condition that occurs when a cat is exposed to a certain allergen after having been exposed to it previously. In extreme situations, this reaction can be fatal. The condition is unpredictable, as almost any substance can potentially cause an allergic reaction. The expected outcome is often good if the reaction is detected early and treatment is administered quickly.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include shock, breathing difficulties, vomiting, urination, and lack of bowel control. The onset can be quick, often within minutes of exposure to the allergen.
Virtually any environmental or ingested substance can cause anaphylaxis in cats. Causes may include insect stings, drugs, or food. If your cat comes into contact with a severe allergen, its body will typically react severely. The reaction can be localized, or there may be a systemic reaction. A serious trauma can also cause a similar type of reaction.
Your cat's reaction to an allergen can take place suddenly, and there are no current tests to determine whether a cat will be susceptible to a certain stimulus. However, skin allergen tests can be performed for many of the most common allergens if they are believed to be at the root of the problem. A severe reaction is considered a medical emergency and often requires hospitalization.
It is important to remove the agent causing the reaction as soon as it has been identified. Sometimes a vaccine can be helpful, but in severe cases life support may be required, as well as opening an airway so your cat can breathe properly. In addition, fluids are often administered to reduce or prevent shock, and to hydrate the body. Drugs like epinephrine are often given if shock is severe, and antihistamines can be prescribed to help with on-going control of the allergy. Animals often require close monitoring in a clinical setting for 24 to 48 hours after treatment has begun.
Living and Management
If the allergic reaction was caused by food, or an otherwise common allergen, efforts must be made to control your cat’s environment. As many cases are sudden, you will be guided by your veterinarian so a future emergency can be managed effectively.
There are no known ways to prevent an initial reaction, but once the allergen is identified, it can be controlled.
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