What are food allergies in cats?
Food allergies in cats involve a reaction to often only tiny amounts of an ingredient in a particular food, such as beef, dairy products or fish. Although allergies are often diagnosed in young cats, they can crop up at any age, so it’s worth getting any unusual symptoms checked out at any age.
Cat food allergies are very difficult to diagnose, as there are no allergy-specific tests available, symptoms aren’t usually specific, and the triggers can be inconsistent.
The symptoms of food allergies in cats can often be mistaken for other medical conditions, so it’s very important to ask your vet’s advice before you make any changes to your cat’s diet to make sure that you really are treating an allergy, and not another condition altogether.
What are the signs and symptoms of a cat allergy?
- Skin problems - itching and redness, bald areas or actual abrasions of the skin, usually caused by the cat scratching themselves.
- Recurrent ear infections.
- Fur ball problems, due to swallowing fur when scratching/over-grooming themselves.
- Gastrointestinal problems including vomiting and diarrhea
- Respiratory problems (although these are rare).
How to diagnose a food allergy
The best way to diagnose a food allergy in a cat is through an elimination diet trial. The idea is that if you can completely exclude the source of allergen from your pet’s environment, then the symptoms should resolve. If you believe your cat could be suffering from a food allergy it is best to contact to your vet as they will prepare you an elimination diet trial.
How are food allergies in cats treated?
Food allergies, like other allergies, cannot be cured. Instead, they are managed through the avoidance of ingredients that trigger flare-ups. The best treatment for cat food allergies is to eliminate the allergen from your cat’s environment completely. This means that none of the ingredients in your cat’s food can come from the source of your animal’s allergy.
Some cat foods available in retail stores may tout that they are ‘limited-ingredient’ or do not contain the ingredient(s) that your cat is allergic to, but it is important to note that, unlike veterinary diets, retail pet foods are not manufactured with the extreme health and safety protocols to prevent cross-contamination.