What is Chicken Allergy?

Most symptoms related to a food allergy will be related to the skin or gastrointestinal tract. A chicken allergy can show up at any age in cats and in any breed, including mixed breed cats. Once your cat is diagnosed with a chicken allergy you will want to avoid feeding any food that contains chicken protein or chicken fat as these will also cause problems for your cat.

Many times cats will develop food allergies or will not be able to tolerate certain foods. Several of these foods are found in the ingredients of commercial cat food. The most common food allergies or intolerances are chicken, fish, beef, lamb, dairy and eggs.

Symptoms of Chicken Allergy in Cats

Cats do not usually show that they are feeling poorly until they become very ill. Generally, if your cat has developed a food allergy, such as an intolerance to chicken, they will exhibit skin related or gastrointestinal related problems. If you notice your cat acting oddly or sickly, contact your veterinarian for an appointment.

  • Excessive scratching, especially around the neck and face
  • Rash around the face and ears
  • Excessive licking, especially the paws, stomach or legs
  • Red and/or itchy ears
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Chicken Allergy in Cats

A chicken allergy in cats can develop for a number of different reasons. When your cat has a healthy response to the ingredients in their food their body is able to break down the food into amino acids and the nutrients are then properly absorbed into the body. The gastrointestinal tract is vital to keeping out indigestible things that cats eat as well as nutrients that are only partially digested, or not properly broken down into single amino acids. 

If the gastrointestinal tract fails to filter the partially digested foods and those particles enter the body, your cat’s immune system will detect these nutrients as foreign invaders to the body and begin attacking them. This triggers an allergic reaction. The more chicken or chicken products your cat eats the more intense the allergic reaction.

Your cat has leaky gut or more appropriately dysbiosis; this means that your cat will have the same immune response every time they eat chicken or some other food that they have become intolerant.

Diagnosis of Chicken Allergy in Cats

If you suspect your cat has developed an allergy to their food, in particular chicken or chicken by-products, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist for further testing and to rule out possible skin conditions. 

Your veterinarian will begin by doing a thorough physical examination of your cat, noting the visible symptoms. They will also ask about your cat’s diet and if the symptoms seem to intensify after eating. Intradermal skin tests can be done as well as blood allergy tests. These tests are reliable when trying to pinpoint some allergens but are not accurate when trying to pinpoint a protein allergy, such as chicken or fish. 

Your cat will be put on a prescription diet for about 12 weeks; usually this diet is exclusively a hydrolyzed protein diet. No treats or flavored medications can be given during those 12 weeks to ensure that your cat is not getting an allergen from an outside source. This prescription diet will be free of potential allergy causing ingredients that are common in cats. Ideally, this diet will contain ingredients that your cat has not been exposed to before. Once the symptoms have disappeared while on this diet your veterinarian will begin reintroducing old foods one at a time to see which ones are causing the allergic reaction.

Treatment of Chicken Allergy in Cats

Treatments can begin even before the food allergen is properly diagnosed. With general treatments, your cat’s symptoms can be treated and give them some relief while they are starting their prescription diet and allergy testing. 

Steroids are used to relieve itching and rashes from food allergies. The most common steroids given are prednisone and prednisolone. These are given orally in tablet form. Injectable steroids can be given if the allergic reaction is severe. 

Hyposensitization therapy can be used, although it is not common to do so in cats. This therapy requires that you know the precise allergen. The substance, in this case chicken, is purified and diluted then injected into your cat’s system. By doing this, the immune system will begin to recognize the allergen as not harmful and having no need to attack it when it is present in the body. These injections need to be given every one to three weeks for several months.

There is a new aspect of Hyposensitization therapy that does not involve injections, but rather giving the diluted substance sublingual or under the tongue. Results begin to show within 30 days using this approach. 

Prescription diets are also available for your cat. There are even over the counter foods that are specifically formulated and do not contain certain common foods that cause allergies in cats.

Recovery of Chicken Allergy in Cats

Once the chicken allergy has been diagnosed and the symptoms treated, your cat has a good prognosis of recovery provided you avoid chicken and chicken by-products in their diet. Your veterinarian will recommend a quality food that your cat can eat without having an allergic reaction to chicken. Be sure to read the labels carefully on your cat’s food and treats to ensure that they are not exposed to chicken.