Food Allergies

Food Allergies

Just like dogs, cats get allergies too. They can cause one or more of the following signs:

  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hair loss
  • Red ears
  • Vomiting

Cats can become allergic to protein in food, treats or table scraps. They can develop skin problems, such as rashes, itchiness, reddened ears and hair loss, or gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhoea.

The signs of food allergies can look like those caused by allergies to fleas, plants or pollen. Just like people, cat can be allergic to bites and some plants (contact) and pollens (inhaled). Usually though, allergies to pollen and plants show up more during Spring and Summer while food allergies can occur any time of year. Some animals develop multiple allergies.

In the past, to diagnose food allergy, a diet had to be formulated that was expensive, fiddly and very difficult to balance. This usually required choosing a novel protein source and a novel carbohydrate source, ie. one that the animal has never been fed before.

The most innovative advancement for managing food allergies in cats is hydrolysed Prescription diets. Hydrolysation breaks down the proteins in food so they are too small to cause an allergic reaction. This same process is also being used to manufacture formula for human babies who are allergic to milk protein. Examples of these Prescription diets are Hill’s z/d and Royal Canin Hypoallergenic.

If your cat does have a food allergy, it can be diagnosed & controlled easily. We place the cat on this Prescription diet ONLY (ie. no other food source) for 4-6 weeks. If the signs disappear, owners can elect to keep the cat on this diet, or to “challenge" the cat with a different type of food every week. If the cat is allergic to one of these foods, signs will start again within the next day or so. If no response is noted, then a different food is added the next week.

There are two levels of diet: one has only hydrolysed proteins so it won’t cause an allergic reaction at all; the other has low allergen loads with hydrolysed animal proteins and some whole plant proteins. These plant proteins are considered “safe" because they have very little chance of causing a reaction.

The benefits of this Prescription Diet are:

  • Virtually no chance of reaction. There is very little chance allergy symptoms will return if you feed your pet Prescription Diet exclusively.
  • 100% complete nutrition
  • Highly palatable
  • Convenient - you won’t have to worry about changing your cat’s diet again or fixing homemade food. This diet requires no preparation on your behalf.

The transition period for changing from feeding your cat old food to a Prescription Diet should be spread over seven days or so, gradually adding the new food to your pet’s previous diet. Remember, your cat can have no other food besides the Prescription Diet once the transition period is over. When the symptoms disappear, you might be tempted to start feeding your cat its old food or treats, snacks and table scraps. A cats’s food allergy is like a human food allergy. If you’re allergic to milk or chocolate, you have to stop ingesting it if you want to avoid the return of symptoms. Even a small amount may cause the allergy symptoms to come back.