Is your cat looking a little more like the cat who got the sniffles, as opposed to the cream? If so, then they very well may be suffering from an allergy. What you might not know, however, is that it may very well be their food causing these symptoms. Parcelpet discusses everything from the cause of your cat’s upset to the best cat food for allergies.
Ok, so sniffles alone won’t diagnose an allergy to their food, so we’ve provided you with a nifty list of symptoms to look out for:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- The ‘sniffles’ (sneezing, excessive coughing, wheezing etc)
- Runny/itchy eyes
- An itchy bum (itching in this area suggests a flea allergy)
- Itchy ears
- Sore skin with excessive scratching
- Snoring (caused by an inflamed throat)
- Lack of usual cattitude ie they’re simply not themselves.
If your cat is experiencing the symptoms above or even just one symptom chronically, then this would suggest that they are indeed suffering from an allergy. Of course, treating symptoms is a lot easier if you can work out what is causing them.
Allergies can be caused by a number of environmental factors as well as dietary factors.
- Fleas. Whilst you might not be able to find any immediate evidence to suggest that your cat has been bitten by a flea, if they are persistently scratching then there is a good chance that this is why. If this is the case, seek expert veterinary advice.
- Pollen. Just like us humans suffer from hay fever, cats can be allergic to pollen. If you suspect that your cat is allergic to pollen, then they may be more suited to an indoor lifestyle.
- Household allergens. Household allergens can be anything from dust to the washing up detergent you use on your jumper that your cat loves snugging into. Keep your cat’s environment safe by only using products which are safe for animals.
- Shampoo, conditioner and perfumes. Spritzing your cat should be all about making them look and feel great – make sure that the products you are using are hypoallergenic and free from nasty chemicals.
- Drug treatment. It seems ironic that something that is designed to help your cat may be causing allergens, however, this is not uncommon. If your cat has started experiencing these symptoms after taking a new medication, consult your vet.
Environmental allergens like fleas or pollens are most common and usually distinguished by a seasonality of symptoms.
A true dietary allergy is constant and non seasonal.
•Of those few true adverse food reactions, the most common food allergens are:
These are also the most common ingredients in pet foods. Over the years the hypersensitivities to these dietary allergens has occurred as our pets have simply had more exposure to them.
What is a hypoallergenic diet?
A hypoallergenice diet by definition is ‘low’ in allergens. In many brands the hypoallergenic label means the recipe does not include;
- Wheat gluten
- Artificial preservatives (such as colourings, flavourings and genetically-modified ingredients)
The problem is that the use of this label in not under legislation so brands can interpret hypoallergenic however they wish.
The second issue is that an individual pet can be allergic to any ingredient. If for example your cat is allergic to chicken (the third most common dietary allergy in cats) then a ‘hypoallergenic chicken’ diet would be of no benefit at all.
This is the root of the problem. If you suspect that your pet has a dietary allergy you need to find exactly what it is your pet is allergic too.
Food allergy diagnosis: Introducing the exclusion diet
…and no, the exclusion diet is not a means of excluding your pet – it’s to exclude ingredients which may be allergens. Consult with a vet to first find a diet specifically tailored to your cat.
We have produced a handy guide as to what should make up your pet’s exclusion diet and a rough timeline to follow by.
The no. 1 ‘rule’
The diet should only include one protein that your pet has not tasted before and one carbohydrate for the first 8 to 12 weeks. Why? This is roughly how long it takes for the allergy symptoms to stop.
During this time period, it is vital that your keep your cat off human food and any other snacks. If you need to include some treats then it should be a single source protein snack matching your diet.
After the 12 weeks you introduce the excluded ingredients again one by one. By monitoring with your vet for a return of symptoms, you can identify which ingredient your pet is truly allergic too.
Keep a food diary
Food diaries are something we recommend for lots of dietary related ‘issues’. Food diaries are great for a number of reasons as they allow owners to:
- Effectively monitor how much/how often your cat is eating
- Record symptoms throughout the food trial process
- Provide detailed information for veterinary visits
Double check the old food
After the 12 weeks you introduce the excluded ingredients from the old diet one by one. By monitoring with your vet for a return of symptoms, you can identify which ingredient your pet is truly allergic too.
Whilst it might sound counterproductive trying to make your pet itchy again, this is the only way to truly diagnose what ingredient your pet is allergic too.
When armed with this definitive information it is much easier to find a food which suits your pet.
Solutions for environmental factors
The best thing you can do to avoid your cat being bitten by fleas is preventative treatment. Your vet can advise an appropriate flea treatment schedule for your individual cat based on its age and exposure risks (i.e whether it is indoor or outdoor etc). Beware that cats can still get fleas if they are indoor cats as they can be brought in by other people/animals (blame those dastardly dogs)
Grooming is golden
Similarly, regular grooming is a good measure to take against fleas and other causes of allergies. Using hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner is key. Heck, the last thing you want is for you to be causing your cat’s allergies! Likewise, regular grooming can provide relief from allergies caused by other factors, and if all else fails, allows you to monitor your cat’s health closely.
There are many solutions when it comes to cats with allergies, it’s all about establishing a cause and following cat care best practise at all times. By doing this, you can guarantee that your cat will live a long and happy life, allergy free.
Did we miss something? Perhaps you’ve had a cat who has experienced allergies… if so, we’d love to hear how you cared for your pet over on our Facebook page.