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Blog - Food allergy in cats

Food Allergies and Intolerances in Cats

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Adverse food reactions (AFR) are quite a common problem in cats of all ages. Adverse food reactions are comprised of food intolerance and food allergies, which trigger an adverse response by the body to an ingredient found in food.

With cats, food allergies involve an immune system response to amounts of an ingredient in particular food and can lead to more severe symptoms.

In contrast, food intolerances involve digestive problems that occur after a specific food is ingested.

Here, we comprehensively look at food allergies and intolerances in cats.

What Cat Foods Are Associated with Food Allergies?

Common cat foods associated with allergies in cats include beef, fish, chicken, dairy products, among other unidentified allergens.

Pro Tip: For your cat to develop a food reaction, the food must be one your cat has been previously exposed to

Symptoms That Your Cat Has Food Sensitivities

Symptoms of adverse food reactions in cats may include one or more of the following:

  • Itchy skin, redness, bald areas, or skin abrasions
  • Recurrent or chronic ear infections
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive Scratching
  • Recurring skin infections
  • Gastrointestinal problems including vomiting, diarrhea, and scooting
  • Furball problems

Vomiting and diarrhea are likely to indicate food intolerance, while skin issues are common in food allergy cases. If untreated, food intolerance can progress to a food allergy and can potentially cause irritable bowel disease. Persistent scratching is often the result of over-grooming or parasites.

Diagnosis of Adverse Food Reaction in Cats

Diagnosing an adverse food reaction in cats can be challenging because the symptoms associated with food allergies are similar to those of other cat conditions. As such, testing is required to accurately determine the cause of your cat's allergic disease.

If your vet suspects an allergic reaction to cat food, they will probably recommend an exclusion food trial. Food elimination trials involve temporarily feeding your cat on a hypoallergenic diet, one that contains fewer proteins or proteins that your cat has not eaten before. This diet must be adhered to for 4-6 weeks. A food trial diet may take several forms:

  • Hydrolyzed-protein diet — one in which the proteins carry a reduced risk of triggering an immune reaction.
  • Commercial novel protein diet — one without products previously present in your cat's food.
  • Homemade novel protein diet — diets without any products previously present in your cat's foods.

Irrespective of the diet used, it must be the only food your cat eats for the trial period. Treats, supplements, or other edible products mustn't be provided during the trial.

Be watchful about leaving unattended food or dishes after meals to avoid interference with the trial results. Once the trial period is over and your cat's allergy symptoms resolve, the ingredient thought to cause a reaction is re-introduced. If an adverse reaction occurs, an adverse food reaction diagnosis is confirmed.

Pro Tip: Don't try to treat a suspected allergy by yourself. Instead, talk to your vet so they can rule out other medical conditions.

Moreover, they will recommend diet trials to establish what your cat could be allergic or intolerant to. Notably, they will closely supervise the trials to ensure that your cat gets all their essential nutritional ingredients with as few ingredients as possible.

Can Cat Food Allergies Be Treated?

Like other allergies, food allergies aren't curable. Instead, they are treatable through avoidance of foods and substances that trigger adverse food reactions. Once your cat is diagnosed with an adverse food reaction, you may choose to continue the food used for the food trial for long-term maintenance.

Alternatively, work with your veterinarian to find a different long-term diet that works and provides similar relief from allergic symptoms. Either way, avoid treats and other foods that may trigger an adverse food reaction. With vigilant dietary control, the prognosis for cats with food allergies is good.

Final Thoughts

Knowing whether your cat is suffering from adverse food reactions can be challenging. However, treatment is worth the effort and will go a long way in helping your cat lead a healthier and happier life.

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