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Most Common Cat Food Allergies

Some cats may be allergic to certain foods, which can result in skin itchiness, vomiting, or diarrhea. Today, our Clovis veterinarians will discuss food allergies in cats, their symptoms, and potential solutions.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is an adverse reaction that occurs when a cat's immune system overreacts to a specific food substance to which it has been previously exposed. Cats with food allergies may experience skin issues or gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and vomiting. It's important to note that food allergies are rare in cats, affecting only about 1% of all cats. There is no evidence of a link between age, gender, or breed in the development of food allergies in cats.

What foods are typically associated with a food allergy?

Common food allergens for cats include beef, fish, chicken, and dairy. A cat must have been exposed to a food ingredient before developing an allergy. It's important to note that even an ingredient a cat has consumed for a long time can still cause an allergy at some point in its life. Research in this area is limited, and there may be other allergens that have not yet been identified.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Itching is the most prevalent symptom of a food allergy, often manifesting anywhere on the body, with the head and neck being particularly common areas. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Licking
  • Scratching
  • Overgrooming
  • Biting

Because of the constant itching, skin lesions may also appear. These can include:

  • Small crusts (miliary dermatitis)
  • Redness
  • Papules
  • Self-induced trauma (sores due to biting, scratching, or licking)
  • Self-induced hair loss (due to biting, scratching, or licking)
  • Ulcerations
  • Plaques (raised circular nodules)

Less commonly, your cat may also suffer from an upset stomach, which can mean diarrhea, vomiting, or both.

Are there risk factors for food allergies in cats?

Food allergies are influenced by genetic predisposition and are frequently associated with atopy (inhalant or environmental allergies). Atopy can develop in cats at any age after three months, and male and female cats are equally prone to food allergies.

How can a veterinarian diagnose a food allergy?

An elimination diet trial is the most reliable test for determining food allergies in cats. This test involves feeding a diet devoid of any proteins to which your cat has previously been exposed. The trial is expected to last at least eight weeks. A trial diet could include:

Veterinary hydrolyzed protein diet: In this diet, the protein molecules are broken down to a size too small for your cat's immune system to recognize.

Veterinary novel protein diet that contains no products found in your cat's previous foods.

Home-prepared novel protein diet that contains no ingredients found in your cat's previous diets.

During the elimination diet trial, your cat must eat only the food that your veterinarian has recommended. Avoid giving your cat any other treats, supplements, or edible products during the elimination diet trial.

The next step is to conduct a food challenge to reintroduce the cat's old food. If their symptoms improve after the diet but return within one week after returning to their old food they have been diagnosed with a food allergy.

Additionally, since chronic itching caused by food allergies may mimic symptoms of external parasites, bacterial or yeast infections, or other allergies, your veterinarian may recommend further testing to determine the underlying cause(s) of your cat's skin condition

How are food allergies in cats treated?

Food allergies in cats can be managed by feeding them a diet that is free of allergens. Prescription diets are preferred due to their stricter quality control. Over-the-counter cat food may contain contaminant proteins. While retail pet foods may claim to be 'limited-ingredient' or allergen-free, they do not adhere to the same health and safety protocols as veterinary diets.

Once you have found a diet that works for your cat, it's important to stick with it and avoid cat treats and other foods that contain the allergen. Fortunately, the prognosis for cats with food allergies is generally good with careful dietary control.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you believe your cat might be suffering from a food allergy? Contact our Clovis vets today to book an appointment for your feline friend.

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