Cat Food Allergy Symptoms

Cat food allergy is common in pets and, most frequently, cats are allergic to foods such as corn, beef or soy. About 10% of allergic cats have a food allergy. The symptoms of cat food allergy are similar to other types of allergies.

Cat Food Allergy Symptoms

An allergic cat will typically display the following symptoms:

  • Itchiness
  • Excessive scratching caused by itchiness
  • Excessive licking, the cat will lick the itchy portions of skin to relieve itchiness
  • Red skin, caused by scratching
  • Hair loss; the cat scratches off his fur
  • Dermatitis

These symptoms may also point to allergies caused by environmental factors. However, a good indicative is that the environmental allergies are seasonal; they start in spring or autumn, while the food allergies last all year long.

Another typical sign of food allergies is that when treating the itchy skin with topical ointments that contain steroids, the itchiness is not relieved.

Food allergies may occur at an early age (6 months); but typically food allergies occur when the cat is 2 to 6 years old or even later; there have been cases of food allergies that occurred only after the age of 12 years.

If the cat presents symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, this means that he has a food intolerance, not food allergy.

Common Food Allergens

Cats may be allergic to different ingredients that may be found in commercial cat food including:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Seafood
  • Dairy products
  • Soy
  • Wheat gluten

It is important to identify the exact ingredients that cause the negative reactions, so as to be able to eliminate these and replace them with some substitutes that have the same nutritional properties.

Diagnosing Food Allergies

After noticing a few indicative symptoms and ruling out any other type of allergies (to chemicals, dust, pollen, parasites, bacteria or fungi) the vet will conclude that the cat has food allergies. There are basically 3 ways of diagnosing food allergies in cats:

  • Food trials
  • Skin testing
  • Blood testing

Food trials are lengthy and the cat is fed one type of food for a long period of time (i.e. 12 weeks). The cat's reactions are monitored and after 12 weeks a new food is introduced, until the allergen is detected.

Skin testing consists of injecting different possible allergens under the cat's skin. If the cat is allergic to a certain allergen, there will be a reaction on the skin 4 or 5 hours after the injection. However, the skin testing is not as efficient in diagnosing food allergies.

For blood testing, a blood sample is taken from the cat and the blood is analyzed to see which allergen creates a negative reaction.

Treatment for Cat Food Allergies

The best treatment for food allergies is the elimination of the allergen ingredient from your cat's diet.

Antihistamines of steroids may relieve the allergies for a short term.

Talk to your vet and get a prescription diet for your cat or opt for homemade cat food recipes. Make sure your cat gets the necessary nutrients, minerals and vitamins.