Food Allergies In Cats: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Cats can become allergic to the same types of foods that commonly affect humans, such as gluten, dairy and soy, and they can also become allergic to beef and lamb. The reason for a cat suddenly developing a food allergy isn't always clear, but it typically occurs as a result of a hypersensitive immune system. When the immune system becomes hypersensitive, it can begin to identify harmless foods as dangerous, and exposure to high levels of histamine and certain gastrointestinal parasites and bacteria can overstimulate a cat's immune system.

Your cat can develop food allergies at any point in their life, and their body will respond to the presence of the offending food by trying to expel it. This immune response to a perceived attack can cause your cat to experience intestinal inflammation due to their white blood cells attacking the offending substance, and they can struggle to absorb nutrients efficiently when their digestive tract is inflamed.

Symptoms Of Food Allergies

If you're cat has developed any of the following symptoms, they may have a food allergy:

  • Gastric upset, particularly after eating
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin rash

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Food Allergies

To determine if your cat has a food allergy, the vet will take a detailed account of their symptoms and current diet. They will also take blood samples to check if your cat's inflammatory markers are raised and whether they have nutritional deficiencies. Their white blood cell count may also be checked, and this can help the vet establish if the immune system is involved.

If a food allergy seems likely, you will be asked to put your cat on an elimination diet. This involves feeding your cat a very simple diet of one type of protein and one type of carbohydrate for several days and then changing to a new protein and carbohydrate until you've been through all the typical foods they eat. You will have to keep a food and symptom diary, and your vet will review this with you to establish what foods seem to be an issue. This can take some time and effort on your part, but it's an effective way of getting to the root of what's causing your cat discomfort.

Your vet will give you advice on how to manage your cat's nutritional needs without the offending foods in their diet, and they can also recommend brands of hypoallergenic food for your cat to try. If your cat is allergic to several foods, your vet may want to monitor their nutrition levels over a period of time to ensure they are getting everything they need from their diet.

If your cat is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, have them checked out by your vet as soon as possible.