3 Things To Know About Cats And Food Allergies

Pets & Animals Blog

Food allergies are a common feline health problem, but many cat owners don't recognize the signs of a food allergy at first. Food allergies can be confusing because it's possible for your pet to develop allergies to foods they've eaten without any problem for years. Take a look at a few things that you need to know about cats and food allergies.

Food Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of a food allergy usually involve skin and coat problems. Your cat may develop itchy, fluid-filled lumps, especially around their head and neck. While these lumps aren't usually dangerous themselves, your cat will be inclined to scratch them, which can lead to skin infections and deterioration of your cat's coat.

A food allergy may also present with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and flatulence. These occur in addition to the skin irritations. When gastrointestinal symptoms occur without the skin irritations, then it's usually due to a food intolerance, rather than a food allergy.

Common Food Allergens

The foods that most commonly cause allergies are foods that contain protein, like beef or seafood. However, carbohydrates, like wheat gluten or soy, can also cause allergies, as can dairy products.

Your cat may have eaten these proteins for most of their lives without incident, but over time, their immune system started to attack those proteins, resulting in the allergy symptoms. If your cat has had an infection or inflammation that damaged their digestive system, or if they've been on certain medications that affect the digestive system, they may be more prone to developing food allergies.

The Novel Diet

Most likely, your veterinarian will recommend testing your cat for food allergies by putting them on a novel diet. This means feeding them foods that are novel to them – in other words, foods that they've never tried before. Ordinary cat foods usually contain proteins like beef, chicken, or fish, and carbohydrates like wheat, rice, or soy. So, for a novel diet, you would choose a new protein and a new carbohydrate – for example, venison and potatoes – and feed your cat exclusively that for a set amount of time.

If your cat's symptoms subside during the novel diet period, your veterinarian will have you slowly re-introduce the food that your cat was eating before, preferably one ingredient at a time. When your cat begins to have a reaction, you'll have pinpointed the allergen. Some cats will continue to have allergic reactions while on a novel diet. This may mean that they need specially-made food with proteins broken down to avoid an allergic reaction.

A food allergy can lead to serious health problems for your cat. If you suspect that your cat has a food allergy, it's important to see a veterinarian ta an animal hospital like Center-Sinai Animal Hospital right away. Your veterinarian can treat the allergy symptoms to make your cat more comfortable and help you find a healthy diet that works for your cat. 


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