How to know if your cat has a food allergy

November 14, 2014

Food allergies in cats can be caused by a simple bowl of milk, scrap of shrimp or shred of chicken. Even if your cat has thrived on these foods before, sudden stomach or skin problems could indicate that your beloved feline has a new allergy. Luckily, most food allergies in cats can be easily identified by following an elimination diet and careful observation.

How to know if your cat has a food allergy

Common foods that cause allergies

If you suspect your cat may have a food allergy, the most common irritants are wheat, beef, lamb, corn, seafood and soy. These foods are found in most commercial cat foods, so you may want to discuss placing your cat on a hypoallergenic cat food if you suspect a food allergy.

Dairy products are also very likely to cause food allergy symptoms. Even if your cat isn't allergic to milk, it's likely that your feline is lactose intolerant. Most adult animals, including most cats, cannot digest the lactose in milk. Feline lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, stomach upset and vomiting within 12 hours after consuming dairy products.

Feline food allergy symptoms

Itchy skin is the most common allergy symptom in cats. The itchy skin can be confined to one area of the body or extend over the entire body. Due to scratching, the skin can also be red or have open sores or scabs. Unusual hair loss can also occur. Sneezing, wheezing and snoring are also common feline allergy symptoms.

Food irritations can cause vomiting, diarrheaand other gastrointestinal problems. These symptoms are less likely to be indicative of food allergies in cats. However, any food that causes any type of adverse symptom should be eliminated from your cat's diet.

Identifying feline food allergies

Cats that may have food allergies should be switched to a food containing a single protein and single carbohydrate source that the cat has never eaten before. A prescription hypoallergenic cat food may be recommended by your vet, but some pet store foods are also suitable. Your cat should be fed only that food for at least 12 weeks. Treats, flavoured toys and flavoured medications should be avoided during this time. If the itchiness and other symptoms subside, you can reasonably conclude that your cat has a food allergy.

If you'd like to identify the cause of the allergy, you can slowly incorporate a single new food every few weeks into your cat's diet. A food that causes allergy symptoms to reappear should be immediately eliminated from your feline's diet forever.

Of course, you can also just feed your cat the new food your veterinarian recommends. As long as you are content to limit your cat's diet to a known, safe food, it's unlikely that the cat will develop new allergies. However, you should always be on the lookout for symptoms of feline allergies and be ready to consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns.

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