Food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs and cats. It is the third most common cause after flea bite allergies and atopy (inhalant allergies). With the advent of lamb and rice diets, many people feel that they are preventing or treating food allergies. The entire process of a cat being sensitized to a particular agent in food, and the complicated antibody response that occurs in the intestinal tract in cats with food allergies, are not very well understood. Despite the lack of understanding of the actual disease process, there are many things that we do know including the symptoms, how to diagnose food allergies, and also how to treat them.
Food allergies affect both dogs, and less so, cats. They can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age, though the vast majority of cases occur between 2 and 6 years. Many cats with food allergies also have concurrent inhalant or contact allergies.
The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most allergies seen in cats. The primary symptom is itchy skin. Symptoms may also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued.
In order to determine a food allergy, a food trial consists of feeding your cat a novel food source for 12 weeks. A novel food source would be a protein that your pet had never eaten before. An example would be or in the case of a cat, GO! Sensitivity + Shine Freshwater Trout formula. Regardless of the diet used, it must be the only thing the cat eats for 12 weeks. This means no treats; absolutely nothing but the special food and water.
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