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Most Common Cat Food Allergies

Certain foods can trigger some cats' allergies, leading to skin itchiness, vomiting, or diarrhea. Our veterinarians in Santa Clarita will discuss food allergies in cats, discuss their symptoms, and provide insights on how you can assist your feline friend.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy occurs when a cat's immune system overreacts to a food substance it has previously encountered, leading to an adverse reaction. Cats with a food allergy to a specific ingredient must have previously ingested that ingredient. Food allergies primarily manifest as skin issues but can also lead to gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea and vomiting.

It's reassuring to note that food allergies are rare in cats, affecting only approximately 1% of the feline population. There is no evidence suggesting a connection between age, gender, or breed in relation to food allergies.

What foods are typically associated with a food allergy?

Common food allergies in cats often involve beef, fish, chicken, and dairy. A cat must have previously encountered a particular food ingredient to develop an allergy. It's important to note that an ingredient a cat has consumed over an extended period can still trigger an allergy at some point in its life. Research in this field remains limited, leaving open the possibility that undiscovered allergens may exist.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Itching is the most common symptom of a food allergy. The itching can happen anywhere, but the head and neck are most likely spots.

Other 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?

Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in shaping food allergies, often intertwining with atopy, whether it's related to inhalant or environmental triggers. Cats can develop atopy at any point in life after three months, with both male and female felines being equally susceptible to food allergies.

How can a veterinarian diagnose a food allergy?

An elimination diet trial stands as the most dependable method for pinpointing food allergies in cats. This trial requires you to feed your cat a diet completely devoid of any proteins they have encountered before. This trial typically spans a minimum of eight weeks. The trial diet may encompass the following options:

Veterinary hydrolyzed protein diet, in which 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 veterinarian's recommended food should be the sole diet for your cat. Avoid giving any other treats, supplements, or edible products during this trial. Next, you'll need to conduct a food challenge to reintroduce your cat's previous diet. If your cat's symptoms improve during the diet trial but return within one week of returning to their old food, they will be diagnosed with a food allergy.

Because chronic itching, which can result from food allergies, may also be triggered by external parasites, bacterial infections, yeast infections, or other allergies, additional testing is often advised to pinpoint the cause(s) of your cat's skin condition.

How are food allergies in cats treated?

Treat food allergies in cats by providing an allergen-free diet, preferably through prescription diets, due to their stricter quality control. Over-the-counter cat food may potentially contain contaminant proteins. Although some 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 identified a suitable diet for your cat, maintain it consistently over the long term, refraining from giving your cat treats or other foods containing allergens. It's reassuring to note that cats with food allergies typically have a favorable prognosis when managed with diligent 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 Santa Clarita vets today to book an appointment for your feline friend.

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