What are Food Allergies in Cats
What is it?
How is it Treated?
Any cat can develop a food allergy, and the specific allergen can vary widely among individuals.
After switching to a new brand of cat food, Anna noticed that her affectionate Ragdoll cat, Luna, started experiencing gastrointestinal issues and excessive itching. Concerned about Luna’s sudden discomfort, she sought advice from her veterinarian, who suggested that Luna might be suffering from food allergies.
Typical food allergies in cats occurs when the body produces antibodies against specific proteins contained in foods. These proteins source are called allergens. Many develop allergies to certain types of foods without even eating them.
Cats that eat commercial dry diets are particularly prone to developing food allergies. For example, they often avoid eating meaty treats like chicken and fish because they contain protein and fat that can cause gastrointestinal upset.
The most common cause of food allergies is a reaction to proteins found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, and soy products. However, young cats can also react to chemicals used during the processing, like preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and antibiotics.
Allergies are classified into four types based on how the immune system reacts to the antigen:
- Type I hypersensitivity reactions cause inflammation;
- Type II hypersensitivity reactions cause swelling; Type III hypersensitivity reactions cause itching; and
- Type IV hypersensitivity reactions cause hives.
What Kinds of Cat Foods Correlate to Allergy?
According to the ASPCA, foods commonly associated with food allergies in dogs include beef, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and wheat. In addition, certain ingredients found in processed meats, such as sausage, hotdogs, and bacon, contain potentially dangerous substances like gluten and sodium nitrite.
Cats can also suffer from food allergies due to exposure to common allergens, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and soybeans. However, cats tend to be less sensitive to these allergens than dogs.
An ingredient a cat has consumed can still cause an allergic reaction at some point in the feline’s life, even though the cat hasn’t had contact with that particular substance. This is because the body builds up immunity to specific foods over time.
There hasn’t been enough research in this area to know if any additional allergens haven’t yet been discovered.
Causes of Food Allergies in Cats
Cats are susceptible to food allergies, especially cats who eat raw meat. Cats have several food allergies, including skin, digestive system problems, and respiratory disorders.
Skin allergies are also caused by food proteins that irritate the cat’s itchy skin condition. These allergens can trigger rashes, hives, and other reactions. In addition, digestive system problems can result in an estimated 10% to 15% of affected cats may also exhibit gastrointestinal signs, including vomiting and diarrhea.
Two leading causes of food allergy in cats are hereditary factors and environmental triggers. Genetic factors are passed down from parents to offspring. Environmental triggers are usually due to dietary mistakes.
For example, if your cat eats grass, he could develop a sensitivity to specific proteins found in grasses. Likewise, cats can be allergic to particular proteins found in molds if your cat ingests moldy food.
Environmental triggers are easier to avoid since they aren’t inherited. For example, avoiding exposure to common allergens like pollen and dust ear mites can prevent cat food allergies.
It’s also possible that your cat may have developed food allergies after ingesting a foreign bodies. For instance, if your cat swallows a hairball, she might experience gastrointestinal issues. Likewise, if your cat eats a carpet, she could develop skin inflammation.
Cat Food Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms vary depending on the type of food allergy. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, hives, itching, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, and swollen tongue. Some pets experience only mild symptoms, while others develop life-threatening reactions. You can treat your cat accordingly as soon as you notice these symptoms.
Diagnosis of Food Allergies in Cats
Cats suffer from food allergies often, just like humans do. The only difference is that most cat owners must be aware of this.
If you suspect your cat suffers from food allergies, here are some tips to help diagnose the problem:
- Keep a diary of your cat’s behavior over several days. Note any changes in his eating habits, sleep patterns, energy level, and mood.
- Observe whether he eats at regular intervals throughout the day. For example, does he swallow every two hours, three times per day, or four times per day?
- Watch him closely when you feed him. Is he interested in the food? Or does he ignore it altogether?
- Check his stool for consistency. Is it soft, rigid, or pasty?
- The vet may perform a blood panel, a fecal examination, and other tests. This test involves collecting a sample of your cat’s feces and examining it under a microscope. Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests, including blood work, skin prick testing, and elimination diets.
How Do You Treat Food Allergies in Cats?
Cats are susceptible to food allergies and can suffer symptoms ranging from mild skin irritation to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for cats who experience allergic reactions.
One option is to feed your hypoallergenic cat diets containing fewer allergens. However, these diets are usually explicitly formulated for cats with food allergies and require a veterinarian prescription. Another option is to administer antihistamines to calm down your feline friend. Antihistamines are safe and effective for treating allergies in dogs and humans, but they aren’t recommended for cats due to potential side effects.
Your vet may recommend another option: epinephrine autoinjectors. Epinephrine treats severe allergic reactions in animals and humans and can be administered via injection or nasal spray. While epinephrine is generally considered safe for cats, it shouldn’t be given to kittens under 12 weeks old.
There are other treatments available for cats with food allergies as well. One example is immunotherapy, which involves feeding your pet foods containing low allergens levels over time. Immunotherapy can be helpful for cats who develop allergies later in life, but it requires careful monitoring and frequent blood tests to determine whether your cat is responding appropriately.
In addition to allergy medications, dietary supplements claim to prevent or cure food allergies. However, there’s no scientific evidence supporting these claims. And If a cat eats nothing but the new diet and water for a minimum of eight to ten weeks, its allergies will likely gradually disappear.
It’s important to remember that while there are plenty of ways to manage cat food allergies, there’s no guarantee they’ll eliminate the problem. Therefore, if your cat experiences multiple episodes of vomiting, diarrhea, or hives after eating certain foods, it’s best to consult your vet immediately.
Prevention of Food Allergies in Cats
Cats are notorious for having food allergies, and it’s easy to see why. Their diet consists mainly of dry kibble, which contains very few nutrients. Dry food is also difficult to digest, making it harder for cats to absorb vitamins and minerals.
Feed them various foods to avoid cat food allergies instead of just one type. Ensure the ingredients are listed clearly on the packaging, so you know exactly what you’re feeding them. Also, try limiting treats to special occasions rather than giving them daily snacks.
It’s also important to understand that cats aren’t picky eaters. Even though they may seem picky, they enjoy eating whatever you put in front of them. So if you’re worried about whether or not your cat will eat certain types of food, offer them different options and let them decide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.