If you have ever noticed part of your cat’s fur missing from excessive licking and biting, then it is quite possible that your cat has a food allergy. Cats can often obtain food allergies at different times throughout their life and understanding the symptoms and treatment can provide long-term relief. Once you notice the symptoms, it is best to consult with your veterinarian who will be able to explain the treatment options.
The most common symptom of a food allergy is fur loss. Once a cat’s autoimmune system has been compromised by an allergen, they will began scratching themselves to the point that they will lose their fur and may even cause their skin to bleed. Many times you will also see a rash and swollen eyelids. Cats are sometimes great at hiding their excessive scratching and you might not notice it until you pick them up as their fur loss will be in an inconspicuous place like under their arm or on the back of their leg.
Once your veterinarian examines the hair loss and other symptoms, they will more than likely give your cat a steroid injection, usually a depo medrol injection. This will provide immediate short-term relief of itching and inflammation. However, long-term steroid usage can cause organ damage and shorten your cat’s life. If your veterinarian thinks your cat might have a food allergy, they will discuss hypoallergenic diets and the process of eliminating the allergen.
Trying to determine the exact allergen in your cat’s food can be extremely difficult. To reduce the frustration of this trial and error process, cat food companies have developed hypoallergenic foods. All most all non-hypoallergenic formulas found in pet stores contain the protein sources of beef, chicken, fish, or eggs. They also usually have common grains of rice, corn, wheat, and barley. There are numerous choices of limited ingredient cat foods or cat foods made with specific protein sources such as duck, venison, rabbit, or lamb. There are also numerous grain free cat foods that have replaced traditional grains with peas, carrots, or sweet potatoes. Introducing a new food should be a gradual process but once you have completely switched to the new food, you should see results in 4 to 6 weeks. You may never know the exact allergen but if a hypoallergenic diet is helpful, you will know that it was either a common protein source or a common grain.
With all the nutritional advancements in cat food over the past twenty years, cats with food allergies don’t have to suffer anymore. Buying a hypoallergenic or grain free cat food may cost more but in the long run, it may be cheaper then monthly steroid injections. In addition, your cat will be much happier without all the itching and steroid injections. To learn more, please read this article about feline food allergies.