Feline Food Allergies

"Feline food allergies often cause skin problems. Gastrointestinal symptoms are less common. Before treatment other common allergies need bto be eliminated from consideration such as those to fleas and mites. Treatment involves eliminating most food groups down to a single protein to see if your cat gets better. Food groups will be gradually reintroduced until the problem food is identified."

Cat food allergies usually cause skin reactions. In some cases symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting.

Symptoms are usually cause itching on the face, neck and possibly the ears.

Foods that Cause Feline Food Allergies

These foods are the most common causes of food allergy in cats:

Other foods that cause a reaciton include:

Diets that enhance protein intake can also cause a reaction including casein proteins and whey proteins. Carefully check the ingredients of canned foods that you buy such as tuna. They can contain milk proteins that are causing the allergic reaction.

Regarding milk itself, there no difference in allergic reaction between the different types of milk such as powdered milk, whole and skim.

Some food ingredients are general or unknown terms that actually contain other ingredients such as:

Food Label Ingredients

The Food Label Says

Possible Ingredients

Sodium Caseinate



Wheat Flour

Treats Wheat, soy, pork, beef, lamb or other meat, milk, fish, corn, barley
Starch Wheat, corn, sorghum, arrowroot, tapioca, potato
Stearic Acid (found in medications) Pork, beef, lamb

Prescription Medicines

Possible agents or flavorings from pork, beef, fish

Symptoms of Feline Food Allergies

Food allergies are the same across cats of different breeds, male or female. Reactoins tend to occur more often in younger cats, but can be seen at any age.

Common symptoms include itch on the face and neck (pruritic facial and neck dermatitis) or ears. In this type of allergic reaction you will notice crusty skin, erodid skin, and ulceration (patches of skin that look different than the rest of the skin and look like it has been worn away).

Other symtpoms include hair loss (traumatic alopecia), usually due to your cat over grooming, miliary dermatitis (skin with collections of pronounced red bumps), eosinophilic plaques (well-defined, raised, ulcerated and extremely pruritic lesions that occur on the skin of cats, usually on the abdomen or hindlegs) and caling and shedding of the skin and usually accompanied by redness (exfoliative dermatitis).

Stomach issues are not common.

Diagnosis of Feline Food Allergies

An anti-inflammatory such as glucocorticoids (antiinflammatory steroid) are effective in helping your cat with a food reaction. Treatment and diagnosis is accomplished through what is called a elimination diet.

With this kind of diet your veterinarian will recommend a simple diet. It is common for this to be home cooked in order to elminate hidden ingredients found in many commercial foods. Usually only one protein is recommended such as rabbit, venison, goat, duck, ostrich or horse meat.

You should see your cat improve in 3 to 4 weeks. It can take up to 10 weeks. When a food is reintroduced that your cat has a bad reaction to you see it in as little as a few minutes up to 10 days. Most take in 2 to 3 days and no more than 8 days.

If symptoms disappear and then the original diet is reintroduced and your cat reacts, it confirms the original diagnosis of food allergy or intoloerance.

If your cat recovers after foods are re-eliminated and you see soem symptoms, then your cat might be suffering from an additional condition.

Many cats will do well on a commercial hypoallergenic diet that only contains one major protein. These include Hill's Prescription Diet d/d with duck, rabbit or venison or Hill's Prescription Diet Allergen Free z/d.

Research shows that 20% of cats only do well when eating home cooked food. If this is the case then you might want to also consider a dietary supplement which includes fats, vitamins and minerals.


Feline Allergic Skin Disease – What’s New in Diagnosis and Management?
Peter Hill
Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Dermatology
Division of Companion Animal Studies,
Department of Clinical Veterinary Science,
University of Bristol,
Langford, Bristol, UK

Adverse Food Reaction in Cats
Dr. T. Willemse
Utrecht University,
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,
Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals,
Utrecht, the Netherlands


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