Feline Food Allergies Explained

Although less common than atropy (allergies to inhalants), feline food allergies nevertheless account for a sizable portion of all cat allergy cases. Cats can develop food allergies at any age, and food allergies afflict both male and female cats of all breeds and previous health conditions. Cats with preexisting allergies are slightly more likely to develop allergies to foods.

Because feline food allergies are quite common, it is important to understand how they develop, how to recognize them in your own pets and how to manage and treat them.

Causes of Feline Food Allergies

As a cat consumes a particular food regularly over time, he may become sensitized to an ingredient in the food. His intestinal tract may begin to combat the agent by producing histamines. Histamines produce the variety of symptoms of a feline cat allergy.

A food allergy is different from a food intolerance. Food allergies result in itchy skin, irritated red patches, and damage to the fur or coat. Food intolerance, on the other hand, causes pets to experience digestive troubles such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

Your cat may have an allergy to a food if he displays one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent itchiness
  • Red or irritated patches of skin
  • Loss of sheen
  • Hair loss

Food-related cat allergy itching and skin irritation are similar to symptoms of other types of feline allergies. Feline food allergies, unlike atopy, remain constant throughout the year. Cats suffering from food allergies are not typically responsive to many traditional allergy treatment programs, such as steroid regimens.

Treatment and Control of Food Allergies

If you suspect that your cat has a food allergy, take him to a veterinarian for testing. An allergy test will typically consist of a physical exam and medical history profile, followed by a food elimination test. During this time, your veterinarian may ask you to alter the cat's diet in particular ways in order to identify which foods or food ingredients your cat is allergic to. During a food trial, it is critical that you only feed your cat the diet recommended by your veterinarian so as not to interfere with the results of the test.

Although antihistamines and fatty acids may provide minor and temporary relief for the symptoms of feline food allergies, the only consistently effective solution is an allergy cat food free of the offending ingredient. Your veterinarian can help to determine which special allergy food is best for your cat based on your pet's allergy and condition.

With proper identification and diet, a cat with an allergy to a common feline food ingredient can live virtually symptom-free. An allergic cat's health is largely dependent upon the diligence and foresight of his owner. Ensure that you recognize the symptoms of feline food allergies, and that you are well prepared to deal with them should they arise.