Your Pet Could Be Allergic To Her Food


One day your cat is minding her own business, sleeping peacefully atop the laundry basket or terrorizing the dog. The next, it’s scratching like mad. Fleas are an obvious suspect, but not the only one. Food allergy is “quite common in cats,” Christine Bellezza, a veterinarian and the co-director of the Feline Health Center at Cornell University,

Itching is the number-one symptom of food allergies, especially around the face, paws and ears, according to Other signs include ear infections, hair loss, and small bumps on the skin. Less commonly, food allergies can also upset a cat’s stomach, causing diarrhea or vomiting, says Bellezza.A food allergy can strike cats of any age, though they’re rare in very young kittens, according to Bellezza. “Usually they develop an allergy to a food that they’ve been eating for a long period of time,” she says.

And that food can be just about anything. “What we see most commonly are allergies to fish, beef, dairy products, wheat, corn, and soy,” Bellezza tells Paw Nation. According to, beef, dairy products and wheat account for two-thirds of all cat food allergies.

Diagnosing food allergies can be tricky. Allergic reactions to fleas trigger similar symptoms. “By far, flea allergies are much more common,” Bellezza says. Other infections such as ringworm and mites also cause itchiness. Even medical conditions like urinary tract problems can cause cats to lick and itch at their backsides. But if you and your vet can rule out fleas and other conditions, food allergies are a reasonable suspect.

If you and your veterinarian suspect a food allergy, the next step will probably be a food elimination trial. You’ll feed your allergic cat a food containing a brand-new protein source and a brand-new carbohydrate source that it’s never eaten before. A duck-and-peas combo is a common choice, says Bellezza. “You’re trying to find something new.” Because allergies develop over time, she adds, “They won’t be allergic to something they’ve never had before.”

Unfortunately, changing the diet isn’t a quick fix. It can take 10 weeks for allergies to subside after a cat starts a new diet. During that time, you have to be vigilant to make sure the cat doesn’t swallow anything else, i.e. no treats, no table scraps, no mice. Making matters worse, commercial diets may contain preservatives or food colorings to which some cats develop allergies. “So it’s not always simple to do a food trial,” says Bellezza.

But it’s worth the effort to help your furry family member become itch-free and feel like itself again. Once the offending food has been identified, avoiding it is the best medicine. Sometimes, cats will also develop underlying infections from scratching repeatedly. If that happens to your cat, it might need antibiotics to clear up the infection, says Bellezza.

Ultimately, she adds, consulting with your vet is the most important thing you can do for your itchy cat. “Instead of wasting time [with a food trial] and prolonging the cat’s suffering, it’s best to go to the veterinarian and run some tests,” Bellezza adds. “Because the signs for all these skin disease are so similar, it’s really important to get a diagnosis first.”



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rock
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 11:39:24

    I found this post while surfing the net some random stuff. Thanks for sharing will come back regularly and will email this post to my all my friends.


  2. Ruby
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 05:42:20

    Great post thanks!


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