A New Year and a New Puppy or Kitten?
Feline Atopic Skin Syndrome (FASS) is the term used to describe cat skin allergies, as well as gastrointestinal and respiratory allergies. In this factsheet, you’ll find a wide range of information about the condition, including which breeds are at risk of developing FASS, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. But, first things first, what exactly is Feline Atopic Skin Syndrome?
Which Breeds are at Risk of Cat Skin Allergies?
In cats, little is known about the heritability to FASS, however some studies have found a heritable component to development of allergic dermatitis in breeds such as Abyssinian, Somali, Ocicat, Siamese, Persian, Maine coon, Devon rex, and Himalayan (2).
What Causes Feline Atopic Skin Syndrome?
Feline Atopic Skin Syndrome is associated with environmental and food allergens. This means that cats with this condition have one or more allergies from their environment or diet. Examples of environmental allergens include, but are not limited to(4, 5):
- Mold & mildew
- Other organic substances
- Perfumes and colognes
- Fleas or flea-control products
- Household cleaning products
- Cigarette smoke
- Prescription drugs
- Some cat litters
What are the Symptoms of Feline Atopic Skin Syndrome?
Typically, FASS presents with patterns such as overgrooming, head and neck pruritus, miliary dermatitis, feline eosinophilic plaque, feline eosinophilic granuloma, and indolent ulcer. Noticeable symptoms may include (2, 6):
- Excessive scratching, licking, and nibbling at the affected area
- Red spots (papules) and crusts
- Symptoms akin to hayfever or asthma in humans (e.g. sneezing, coughing, wheezing)
- Hair loss (alopecia) and hair thinning especially on the head, neck, underbelly and inner thighs
- A rash
- Thickened skin
In order to determine your cat’s specific allergies, veterinary dermatologists follow a step-by-step process to eliminate other underlying causes of the pet’s signs and then ultimately the potential allergens. This will typically begin with a detailed history, including information about parasite control, diet, and lifestyle. A general physical examination will then be performed, before focusing on the skin and the specific area of concern.
The diagnosis/elimination process may happen as follows, although your vet may simply choose an appropriate test based on your cat’s history and symptoms (2).
How is Feline Atopic Skin Syndrome Treated?
Once the veterinary dermatologist has determined your cat’s allergies, and what is responsible for FASS, they can then recommend a suitable treatment plan(2).
Parasite allergies, such as fleas, are managed with regular flea treatments, to which your vet will recommend an appropriate product. Food allergies are treated with an avoidance of the food(s) that your cat is allergic to; your vet will likely recommend a suitable, nutritional diet for long-term management.
Environmental allergens require life-long management to control the condition, as it tends to be harder to avoid such allergens. As such, your vet may recommend one or more of the following therapies:
- Anti-itch medication
- Topical treatments such as shampoos, ointments, foams, wipes, and pads
- Essential fatty acids