A topical treatment to help relieve my cat's seasonal allergies (and the associated chewing/licking of fur on stomach and legs)?
May 19, 2010 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything that can be applied topically to relieve my cat's seasonal allergies? He chews/licks the fur off his stomach and legs, and it's too hard to administer oral medications on him.

8 year old male cat, has had seasonal allergies for past 2 years. Indoor cat, healthy, no fleas/ticks/mites.

Last year he started licking and chewing his fur until his stomach and legs were bald. The skin was irritated, but he never actually broke the skin. After about 4-6 months, he stopped completely and everything grew back normally. Now it's that time of year and he's at it again. Last time I tried giving him benadryl (at vet's suggestion--cortisone shots are too expensive for me right now) but it was nearly impossible to get into his system. I did it consistently for a week or 2 but didn't see improvement so I stopped (seriously--it was a daily battle between me and the cat, and I usually came out the worse for wear).

I know this will go away in a few months, but in the meantime my poor cat seems miserable. Is there any topical treatment that anyone has found to work? I don't want something that tastes bad to keep him from chewing--I want something that will relieve the itchy feeling so he won't want to chew. I've never been able to bathe him, but maybe there is something that I can put on a cloth and then wipe down his stomach and legs?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated by me and my poor little guy. Thanks!
posted by wannaknow to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you can get the benadryl in gel form, or even as a liquid, you could wipe it into your kitty's fur, and he'll probably ingest most of it when he grooms himself, especially considering his tendency to chew. IANAV.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:44 PM on May 19, 2010

Putting it on the tops of your cat's paws is a pretty sure way to get him to lick it off immediately - seems to be a reflex in cats.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2010

I have a poor monkey similarly afflicted. I have actually taken her to a pet dermatologist and we are to the point where, if her current regimen doesn't work, we will either have to administer allergy shots or give her a medication that was originally a human drug developed to alleviate transplant rejection.

The dermatologist has never suggested anything topical, mainly because the little idiots would lick it off.

Good luck! Any pics of your cat?
posted by sugarfish at 6:47 PM on May 19, 2010

Can you get a medication that is in pill form? The pill pockets work really well.
posted by mokeydraws at 6:54 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you sure that it's allergies?

My cat has been going through this since October. However, it coincided with bringing another cat into the house, so we were pretty certain that it was stress related. We went through two rounds of keeping him coned and giving him antibiotics until it healed, but other stressers (I became very ill and was in and out of the hospital for two months, then our entire apartment was repainted) started the whole process over again. Finally, the vet gave our cat a prescription for Prozac. So far, that seems to be greatly helping the situation (he's healed up again and there's been three days of no cone, and no excessive licking). He takes a quarter of a pill, which is tiny, and we just wrap it up in cheese which he happily scarfs down every day.
posted by kimdog at 7:01 PM on May 19, 2010

I have a kitty who gets something similar - she's missing one of her hind legs, and in the summer, she seems to get really itchy on the side of her face that she can't scratch because of the missing leg. So she's miserable, and constantly asking to have someone scratch it for her.

The vet gave me something he told me was a steroid. It's called Genesis Topical Spray, and it says it's a solution of 0.015% Triamcinolone Acetonide - for the control of pruritus associated with allergic dermatitis in dogs. It also says "For topical use in dogs only." He told me to spray it on a cotton ball and then wipe down her itchy areas. I'm guessing my vet lets me use it on my cat because since I'm only putting it on her face, she can't lick it off.

I realize this may not be something you can use for your cat, but I'm mentioning it because if you mention it to your vet, it may get them thinking in a direction that leads to something that you could use on your cat.

Also, to get pills into my cats, I grind them up* (you can get a pill crusher at drugstores) and mix it with a tiny bit of Vietnamese fish sauce diluted with water, then put it in a syringe and squirt it down their throat. The way that works the best for me is to put the syringe in the back corner of the mouth and sort of wedge it between their teeth as best as I can.

Also, before attempting any of that, I first sneak up on the cat from behind and throw a towel over them and wrap them up as best as I can, while sort of straddling them from behind. By gently squeezing them between my legs, I can hold them mostly still and leave my hands free to do the dirty work.

(It's pretty crazy what contortions we have to go through to control a 5 lb. cat!)

*the pills, not the cats!
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:20 PM on May 19, 2010

Response by poster: Salvor - that might be worth a shot. I had the children's liquid benadryl, but it has a strong cherry flavor so he could sense it in anything i mixed it into (wet cat food, tuna, tuna oil, etc). Haven't tried just wiping it on him so he'd be forced to lick it, but do you think that would be mean b/c of the cherry flavoring? Even if I crush up pills and mix with liquid, they will still have an awful medicine taste.

Sugarfish - aw, your poor kitty. Are her allergies seasonal or constant? No pics of the cat--he's not looking his best these days ;)

Monkeydraws - I tried the pill pockets--worked once and then never again. He'd quickly catch on to each new method. Now every time I give him a pill pocket, he licks it suspiciously and walks away. Even if I wrap it in something he loooves (sliced deli meat), it makes it's way out of the meat while in his mouth and he spits it out.

kimdog - I'm not 100% sure it's allergies, but when it happened last year there hadn't been any stress or changes. I changed his food and litter in case those were the problem. When he stopped chewing, I figured it must have been something in the old food or litter, but now that's back (after no changes to food/litter or environment) I think it has to be allergies (it was the same time last year).
posted by wannaknow at 7:24 PM on May 19, 2010

Best answer: I'm still researching, but this is one thing I'm going to try right away: Apple Cider Vinegar.


Found this website where people report almost immediate itching relief for cats and dogs. I'll let you guys know if it works...
posted by wannaknow at 7:39 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wannaknow, the dermatologist's current theory is food AND seasonal allergies.
posted by sugarfish at 7:57 PM on May 19, 2010

My cat had the cortisone shots, and they really worked great. They last a long time, too, at least a month, so it might be worth it. He would lick all the fur off his belly and tail from allergic itching.
posted by feste at 9:23 PM on May 19, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm...so far the apple cider vinegar (diluted w/ water) seems to be working. Strangely my cat did not react to the smell, and he didn't freak out when I applied it to his tummy (which I did sparingly b/c I didn't know if he'd freak out). I dipped some paper towel into the ACV and dabbed it onto his bald tummy. I deliberately avoided putting it on his legs as a control. If he licks his legs but not his belly, it must work. Strange thing is that he hasn't licked either since I applied it, so I'm not entirely convinced yet. A few times he bent his head to his stomach like he was going to lick, and then stopped like he changed his mind. It didn't look like he was put off by the smell. And cats usually lick off anything that you put on their skin/fur but he hasn't touched it.

Anyone wanna give this a try on their itchy dog or cat to see if they have the same results? It's not just for allergies--any kind of skin irritant seems to be helped by it (flea bites, etc)
posted by wannaknow at 10:22 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: UPDATE

Not sure how often it will have to be reapplied, but this stuff definitely works and my cat's mood has improved significantly. I noticed that he had started to chew on his stomach again, so I applied more. I held him on his back (like a baby) which he normally won't tolerate. When I pressed the wet paper towel to his stomach and held it there, he stayed still like it felt soothing. After awhile he squirmed and I put him down. He ran away for a second and when he came back, instead of attacking me, he rubbed against me. It might not be long lasting, but at least it's something natural (and very cheap) vs. all those sprays sold online.

I highly recommend you try it if your pet has any itchy or irritated patches of skin. Provides instant relief.
posted by wannaknow at 11:06 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not for nothing, but if/when you need to administer pills, get pill pockets. We've got a cat on long-term medication, and pill pockets turned this from something we all dreaded into something he actively nags us for.
posted by adamrice at 8:01 AM on May 20, 2010

adamrice, OP tried pill pockets. Didn't work more than once.

I'm going to try the apple cider vinegar with my boy cat who also pulls out his fur due to some unknown but definitely there allergy.
posted by cooker girl at 9:02 AM on May 20, 2010

One of ours, Mingus, is an all-black shorthair who's had problems for years. We thought it was stress for a while, but as you note, it seemed to be cyclical. We finally got something this winter that seemed to help. Our vet gave him shots of both Meticorten (prednisone) and Depomedrol (methylpredisolone). He'd had depo before to little effect, but either the Meticorten or the combination of the two did wonders for him. You could ask your vet about them. Mingus has suffered no ill effects and is happier than he's been in years.

Well, we got a kitten who's batshit crazy and wants to wrestle with him all the time, but aside from that, Mingus is happier than he's been in years.
posted by el_lupino at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2010

I'm willing to offer my cat as a second test subject. She's had an itchy belly for a while now. Vet put her on prednisone, which helped within two days, but it also suppressed her immune system enough that her latent herpes infection came out and she couldn't walk straight for sneezing. So, no more pred. :(

I'll give it a shot tonight and report back.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2010

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