Fortunately, true allergies are rare in cats, and allergies are often confused with more common and more easily tolerated food intolerances. Learn how to spot a cat with an allergy, and what you can do to make it happy and healthy again as before.
What is a cat food allergy?
A cat’s food allergy is a reaction to the ingredients in a particular food, sometimes to tiny particles such as beef, dairy or fish. Although allergies are often diagnosed in young cats, they can develop at any age, so it is worth checking at any age for any unusual symptoms.
Cat food allergy is very difficult to diagnose because there are no specific tests to diagnose the disease. Symptoms are usually nonspecific, and the same things may not always provoke an allergy.
The symptoms of cat food allergies are often confused with the symptoms of other diseases, so it is very important to seek the advice of your veterinarian before making any changes to your cat’s diet to make sure you know you need to treat an allergy rather than any other disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of a cat allergy?
The most common symptoms of cat food allergy are:
• Skin problems – itching and redness, scaly areas or torn skin, usually due to the cat scratching.
• Recurrent ear infections.
• Problems with hair follicles caused by swallowing shaved hair or washing too much.
• Stomach and intestinal problems as well as vomiting and diarrhea.
• Breathing problems (rare).
Although constant scratching can be an allergic or too frequent washing reaction, a cat can also scratch regularly due to flea dermatitis (this is a reaction to flea saliva). If you suspect an allergy, never try to treat it yourself. If your veterinarian rules out the possibility of other diseases, it is likely advisable to try dietary foods to determine who your cat may be allergic to or intolerant to. These tests will need to be closely monitored by your veterinarian to ensure that your cat receives all the essential nutrients.
How can veterinarians check if a cat is allergic?
If your veterinarian suspects that your cat is allergic to cat food, it will probably recommend trying a special diet. You will then temporarily feed your cat a tasteless hypoallergenic food that is so low in protein in all its ingredients that it cannot cause an allergic reaction (unless very rare).
The rejection diet is applied for a set period of time, depending on the cat’s symptoms. For example, if a cat is bothered by skin problems, a restricted diet may be given for 4 to 12 weeks, sometimes longer. Stomach and intestinal problems usually subside in a shorter period of time.
As long as the cat is on a rejection diet, she can’t eat anything else – so no one in the family can treat her to any delicious bites or delicacies, however she wants to! During this trial period, cats that walk outside are best kept at home because even if a cat eats just one other mouse, there will be nothing good. It takes patience and perseverance to follow a diet, but sometimes you don’t suffer. If this happens, tell your veterinarian honestly as he needs to know all the facts as well as the fact that the cat is not eating tasteless diet food.
After the trial period
At the end of the trial period, the veterinarian will check the cat’s health and assess how well she is doing and how she is feeling after the new diet. In particular, he will want to know if the same symptoms have eased, changed, or stayed. If nothing has improved, it is likely that your pet is not suffering from a cat food allergy, and the vet will look for another reason why she is feeling so bad.
If your health has improved, this is good news for you and your cat! Your veterinarian will discuss with you what to do next, but you may need to slowly return the protein to your diet and monitor your cat’s reaction closely, depending on the specific problem you are suffering from. If your symptoms start to recur when your cat eats a certain food, you will most likely find the culprit.
Then you will gradually or quickly need to find another nutritionally balanced diet that does not contain that ingredient.
However, sometimes it is not easy, and a cat can be allergic to many foods. Therefore, it is very important that the veterinarian helps with the diagnosis – do not try to find the cause yourself. The process can be complicated, but it will pay off in the end – your pet will be happy to cross dinner and not have to worry about any bad consequences!
If you suspect your cat has a cat food allergy, contact your veterinarian for advice.