Food allergies in cats are not as common as other types of allergies, but when they do occur, they are extremely challenging.
However, even though they are not as common as flea bite allergies and atopy, they still accounts for about 60 percent of all of the causes of itching and scratching in cats.
What makes this allergy all the more challenging, is that it may take several months or even years before it actually surfaces.
Contrary to a lot of misconception, they do not show up immediately after your cat has eaten something they are allergic to.
In fact, in most cases, it can take several months or even as long as two years before it finally rears its ugly head.
Food allergies in cats are a very complicated antibody response that is still not fully understood in the medical community.
It is believed to be a type of response in the intestinal tract of your cat, but again, contrary to a lot of misconception, it is not always the result in a change in your cat’s diet.
It is also very challenging simply because the symptoms closely mimic the symptoms of an inhalant allergy. However, there are some possible ways to identify the difference.
Food allergies in cats, unlike atopy, have no breed preference, and attack both males as well as females. Neutered and intact cats are also equally affected.
This very challenging condition can first strike cats as early as five months old; and in other cases it may not surface until your cat is 12 years old or older.
However, this is where there is one situation that seems to be common with food allergies; in the vast majority of cases it will strike between the ages of two and six.
If your cat has eaten anything new or different and suddenly develops an allergic reaction, the chances are very high that it is not a food allergy.
In almost every case, it takes more than one exposure to produce an allergic reaction and as stated, in most cases, it will be months or years before it surfaces.
The most common types of food that are believed to be responsible for food allergies include chicken, beef, eggs, and milk.
There is also a growing consensus that although not breed specific, it may be genetic.
Food allergies in cats, to be properly identified and treated, must be separated from food intolerance.
Food allergies will show signs of itching and other skin conditions, while food intolerance will almost exclusively show only two symptoms; vomiting and diarrhea.
Food intolerance is best described as the same type of reaction that we have to spicy or fried foods, or similar to lactose intolerance reactions.
The most common symptoms of food allergies in cats are what are referred to as pruritic skin, which is a situation where your cat’s skin becomes extremely itchy.
It generally attacks your cats face, their paws, as well as their ears. Bad skin odor is another telling symptom, as well as excessive skin scaling.
Red bumps and papules may also develop during a bout of food allergies that can very easily lead to your cat self-inflicting further skin trauma by intense itching.
Ear infections are also very common symptoms.
However, these symptoms are very similar to inhaled allergies, but there is one way you can separate the two. Inhaled allergies are subject to seasonal changes; food allergies are not.
If your cat has an allergy year around or develops an allergy in the winter months, it is most likely a food allergy.
Identifying the actual cause of the food allergies in cats is almost oxymoronic in nature; it is not complicated, but can be very complex.
It must be done through a system of foods trials and elimination diets. To do this, you will need to be very patient, as it can take as long as 10 to 12 weeks in most cases.
It is important to understand that this condition did not develop overnight, and because of this, it is going to take some time.
One of the most effective approaches is to take a protein and carbohydrate diet that your cat has never eaten before.
An example would be something unique like duck, goose, or venison, combined with a potato.
There are a number of unique formulas on the market or if you feed your cat a raw diet, try it on your own.
There are also highly specialized diets that have proteins and carbohydrates that are broken down into very small sizes, molecular sizes, which may no longer trigger the allergic reaction in your cat.
Whatever diet that you decide to select, it can be the only food that you feed your cat for at least twelve weeks.
This will include any type of treat or flavored medications. You will have to feed your cat nothing but the special diet and water.
It will also be extremely important not to allow your cat to roam as they may find other food sources.
There are some people that may suggest that blood tests can identify food allergies, but there have never been any documented results that have been published to support this theory.
Most all veterinary dermatologists will absolutely insist that the only accurate way to properly identify food allergies in cats is with the trail method.
Intradermal skin testing is very effective in identify inhalant allergies, but food allergies are entirely different and much more difficult.
Food allergies in cats have only one effective treatment; avoidance. Once the cause of the allergy has been identified, it can be eliminated.
However, during this time frame, there are a few other things you can do.
You can provide your cat some temporary relief during the elimination period with fatty acids as well as antihistamines from your veterinarian.
Steroids can also be used but they should only be used as a last resort as they can have several side effects.
If you are feeding your cat a raw or homemade diet, you can still very easily alter the ingredients until you find what the actual cause is.
However, it is essential that you make sure these diets are well balanced with the correct amount of both vitamins and minerals.
It is recommended by most experts to include a vitamin and mineral supplement for you cat on these diets.
Food allergies in cats are perhaps the most challenging of all the allergies to actually find, but it can be done.
Once you identify that your cat does have a food allergy, you will need to be extremely patient as well as deliberate until the elimination process is over.