August 14, 2019 Cats

New Treatments for Cat Allergies in Humans

A cat sitting on a table

New Treatments for Cat Allergies in Humans

Cat allergies in humans are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as three in 10 Americans with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies, affecting about 10% of humans.

You might think a blog post on managing human allergies is beyond the scope of a blog written by a veterinarian. However, in this blog post, I’ll discuss two interventions under investigation that seek to decrease the allergy-causing allergen in cats, thereby providing relief to human allergy sufferers.

Fel d 1 – The Allergen

In 90% of humans with allergies to cats, Fel d 1 is the allergen responsible for the allergic reaction. Male cats produce more Fel d 1 than females, and neutering male cats decreases its production. Fel d 1 protein is produced in the salivary, skin, tear and perianal glands of cats. As cats groom, they distribute Fel d 1 on their skin and hair. When cats move around the home, they leave Fel d 1 wherever they shed or leave dander behind. An allergic reaction to Fel d 1 can range from mild, with runny eyes and nose, to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Proposed Treatment #1 – A Special Feline Vaccine

Traditional vaccines induce the immune system to make proteins that attack an infectious agent like a bacteria or virus. Therefore, the idea behind the cat allergy vaccine is to induce an attack on Fel d 1 thereby decreasing its production. A decrease in Fel d 1 production by the cat will result in fewer allergic reactions in the human. A recent study from Switzerland describes the use of a Fel d 1 vaccine in cats. The vaccinated cats produced less Fel d 1 when the protein was measured in the tears and the vaccine appeared to be safe. Booster vaccines were necessary to sustain the anti-allergy effect.

Proposed Treatment #2 – Special Cat Food

This treatment falls under the category of immunonutrition. By feeding cat a diet containing a special egg protein, Fel d 1 in the hair and dander was decreased after the diet had been fed for one month. The egg protein contained neutralizing antibodies against Fel d 1 which bound Fel d 1 in the saliva and ultimately decreased the amount of Fel d 1 in the cat’s hair. The hope is this will result in a reduction of the allergen in the home.

While neither of these treatments is quite ready for clinical use, they offer hope to the families unable to open their home to a feline family member because of allergies to Fel d 1. Until these strategies become reality, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has some suggestions for decreasing feline allergens in the home.