Your Cat’s Allergies: Identifying Skin vs. Food Allergies
We consider our cats to be a regular part of our families, and like other members of your family, your cat could potentially suffer from allergies, as well.
It’s important to understand why allergies are happening — things like food or environmental issues are most common — and how to help alleviate the problem.
Cat food allergies
When it comes to cat allergies related to food, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- How to detect common food allergy symptoms: Cats who are suffering from food allergies may react by scratching or itching, or through gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. It’s also important to recognize that food allergies don’t always start at birth — they can show up at any age. To correctly diagnose a food allergy in a cat, you will need to consult with your veterinarian to run the appropriate tests.
- Common culprits: Some common food allergies for cats include beef, fish, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk. While this isn’t an all-inclusive list, these tend to be fairly prevalent, so keep an eye out for these products in their diet so you can discuss with your cat’s veterinarian.
- How food allergies are diagnosed: Food allergies can be difficult to diagnose because cat foods and treats may contain multiple ingredients. If you believe your cat is suffering from a food allergy, consult with your veterinarian, who may in turn recommend a limited ingredient or other special diet and other tests to help pinpoint the exact allergen.
- What treatment might look like: Determining which particular food ingredient your cat is allergic to is often the hardest part of diagnosing and treating a food allergy, since it takes some trial and error. With the help of your veterinarian, a special diet, when needed, can help eliminate common food allergens while still providing the essential ingredients your cat needs. Once your cat has recovered completely from the effects of their particular allergy (which can take about a month), a veterinarian will likely guide you through how to slowly reintroduce foods in an effort to determine which food exactly your cat is allergic to. Once that’s determined, you can avoid providing that particular food in your cat’s diet to keep them from having an allergic reaction in the future. Keep in mind that if your cat has an allergy to something like chicken, you should avoid chicken by-products (like stock), as well. Once a food allergy has been pinpointed by your veterinarian, a limited ingredient cat food and LID cat treats can help keep them feeling great.
While true food allergies in cats are somewhat uncommon, a food sensitivity may still be the culprit. Determining what specific issue your cat may be having can be tricky, which is why consulting with your veterinarian is important. Limited ingredient diets can also help cats with food sensitivities.
Skin allergies in cats
Like food allergies, skin allergies can cause real discomfort for your pet. Typically, what we think of as a skin allergy a cat may have is actually an environmental allergy that manifests as skin issues. And, because these allergies are the result of environmental factors, they are usually more common that food allergies. Determining the underlying cause (or causes) and finding a proper course of treatment will help your pet live a more comfortable life.
- How to detect common skin allergy symptoms: Skin allergies can manifest with similar symptoms to food allergies such as itching and scratching, excessive licking or gastrointestinal issues including vomiting or diarrhea. With skin allergies, however, you may be able to more visibly detect an issue in a particular area — like an itch that is particular to the back or base of the tail, which is common in flea allergies — or itchy ears and ear infections.
- Common culprits: Environmental allergens can cause skin allergies in cats the same way they do in people, and a lot of the harmful substances are the same, too. Things to look out for include trees, grasses, mold and mildew, perfumes or cleaning products, fleas or flea-control products, certain fabrics and even rubber or plastic materials.
- How skin allergies are diagnosed: Many factors may go into your veterinarian’s determination of the allergen that’s causing your cat issues. The time of year could help determine whether the skin allergy is being caused by a pest — like fleas or ticks — while other criteria, such as new medications or an introduction of additional play areas or materials into your cat’s life. In some cases, an intradermal skin test may be performed to help determine which allergens are involved. And, it is worth it to note that even environmental allergies may manifest as gastrointestinal issues, so it is important to get your veterinarian’s help in assessing any discomfort you think your cat may be experiencing.
- What treatment might look like: Once you know what’s causing the allergy, you can actively work to avoid having your cat come into contact with that particular trigger. In some cases, a cat allergy or itch-relief topical cream could help calm the problem until it completely subsides, or your veterinarian could prescribe a stronger allergy relief medication to help your cat feel comfortable. Natural treatments such as supplements or a stronger hygiene routine can also help. Always check with your veterinarian first, however.
Determining the exact cause of your cat’s allergies might be a process of trial and error, but if you think your cat is suffering from food or skin allergies, it’s essential to see your veterinarian immediately
To determine where the problem lies so you can start a proper treatment regimen right away.