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What is Dairy Allergy?

A dairy allergy in cats occurs in more than 10% of the breed. Dairy products are those products produced from the milk of mammals and are popularly known as milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese. Cats with a dairy allergy are allergic to the protein, casein in milk. This type of allergy is considered a food allergy and has many similar symptoms to a typical food allergy. 

Many people confuse a dairy allergy with lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the result of not having adequate amounts of the enzyme known as lactase, which is used for the breaking down of the sugar found in milk as well as other dairy products, known as lactose. A milk allergy is a real allergy to the food as a result of an allergy to the protein found in milk.

Veterinarians are knowledgeable in the area of food allergies and animals, and although it may take some time to eliminate what specifically animals are allergic to; veterinarians can diagnose and treat a variety of food allergies. With cats, mainly indoor cats with structured diets and feeding times, veterinarians can typically come to a definitive diagnosis as to what is causing the specific allergy.

Food allergies of all types can affect both females and males – neutered, spayed, or intact in the same manner. Allergies to food can occur in cats that are a few months old up to approximately 12 years old. Most food allergies occur in cats between the ages of two and six. Food allergies take time to truly develop and for the symptoms to show; it can take months or even years of eating the same foods for the cat’s immune system to develop an allergy-inducing defense against the specific protein.

A dairy allergy in cats is a result of a cat’s immune system becoming very sensitive to the protein, known as casein, in milk products. A dairy allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance, which is an actual intolerance to lactose in milk.

Symptoms of Dairy Allergy in Cats

If your cat has a dairy allergy, he will have a variety of symptoms that are very similar to being lactose intolerant. His symptoms will alert you to contact your veterinarian and make an appointment. Symptoms of a dairy allergy in cats include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Gas
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Loss of hair
  • Excessive licking of the skin 

Types

Cats can be allergic to many different types of foods, as well as inhalants, pests, and fleas. Other types of foods that can give cats allergic reactions include:

  • Beef
  • Corn
  • Seafood
  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Soy

Causes of Dairy Allergy in Cats

Specific causes of food allergies in cats are frequently being researched. Causes of a dairy allergy in cats may include:

  • An intolerance to the protein, casein, in milk
  • An over reactive immune system
  • Sensitivity in the stomach and digestive tract to the protein

Diagnosis of Dairy Allergy in Cats

If you are noticing any of the above symptoms in your cat, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. Your veterinarian will begin by conducting a complete physical examination, with bloodwork, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. Your veterinarian will also take a closer look at your cat’s symptoms and will ask questions about his symptoms, such as questions pertaining to when they began, if he has eaten anything different or been exposed to a different type of allergen, and the severity of the symptoms. Once your veterinarian compiles as much information as he can, he will make a preliminary diagnosis of an allergy. The next step will be to uncover what your cat is specifically allergic to.

Your veterinarian will want to know exactly what types of food your cat eats, and it will be very helpful to take a can or bag of the food in with you. This will have the exact list of ingredients, and if your cat does drink milk on occasion, it will be very important to tell your veterinarian.

After looking at the ingredients and knowing he does partake in milk from time to time, the veterinarian will give you a diet to follow very closely for 12 weeks. It will be crucial to not feed your cat anything else or give your cat anything to drink except water. Once the 12 weeks are over, your veterinarian will tell you what to reintroduce very slowly into your cat’s diet.

Once your cat begins drinking any milk or having food that contains a milk product, he may have another reaction. This will be a very good sign that your cat has a milk product allergy, and your medical professional will advise you to no longer give him any milk or any milk-containing product.

Once your feline has completely stopped consuming all dairy products, you will notice a difference in his overall health and demeanor. He will no longer show any allergic reactions, and your veterinarian will advise you on the specific diet to feed him.

Treatment of Dairy Allergy in Cats

If your cat has a dairy allergy, your veterinarian will advise you to no longer allow your feline companion to consume any dairy products. This is the only method of treatment for a dairy allergy: completely eliminating all dairy from his diet. It will be important to ensure that all members of the household comply with the new feeding regimen, which will include milk-free treats and snacks only.

Recovery of Dairy Allergy in Cats

When your cat is undergoing the elimination diet, he may refuse the new food or not want to drink solely water. He may beg you for something different, as he is used to getting dairy foods, but it will be important to not give in. Your cat will eventually eat and become accustomed to his new diet.

Once the dairy allergy is uncovered, you will understand not to feed or allow him to drink milk products, and over time, you will see an improvement in his coat and skin, as well as his gastrointestinal health. Although many cats enjoy having milk or yogurt, even as a small snack, these will need to be replaced with other treats that do not contain these ingredients.

Dairy Allergy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Misu
Persian
6 Weeks
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Patches

I have a female white kitty 45 days old she is...when she came to my home she had a patch on her tummy nxt day in her left it came and now two more pimple shape small patches are forming in hands n legs please advice me about food i gave her milk these two days the owner also dint tell us a correct diet chart of her am worried alot

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1521 Recommendations
While cats do typically develop lactose intolerance once they don't need to be nursing anymore, it is unlikely that Misu's skin problems are related to that. Kittens are prone to parasites and bacterial skin diseases, and it would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian to determine what the cause of the patches are. As far as food, there are many good commercial cat foods that she is old enough to eat - all pet food stores and veterinary clinics carry kitten food that is good for them to eat. I hope that she does well.

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Laila
Siberian
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing fits
Sneezing fits, no mucus but runny nose
Sneezing fits and vomiting

Cat has been having sneezing fits for a few weeks now. Has small sneezes while drinking milk that later turn into on and off large sneezing fits that vary in intesity. No mucus out of nose but runny nose when sneezing. Also vomiting a little while after having milk. Hasn't had any abnormal behaviors,such as isolation, and still has an appetite. Could her sneezing fits and vomiting be due to her drinking milk?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3195 Recommendations
If the symptoms present during and after drinking milk, it may be the milk which is the issue; you should stop giving milk for a few days to see if there is an improvement in symptoms, if there is a resolution in symptoms give the milk again and see if the symptoms return. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Kara
Persian
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Pulling of hair
Hair loss, Redness of skin,

My pet is losing hair and has an itchy skin... The hair loss is from all the four legs and neck area.. She spends lot of time in grooming and pulling out hair...

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3195 Recommendations
There are a few possible causes for this level of hair loss including allergies, infections, parasites, chemical irritants (from walking through something), hormonal issues among other causes; without examining Kara I cannot determine what the underlying cause is, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and skin scrape to determine a cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Azrael
tabby
6 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Excessive Shedding

My cat recently drank about a 1/2 cup of milk and a couple days later he started to scratch himself a lot to the point of scabs by his ears. He also grooms himself a lot and is shed more than normal. Is this a milk allergy or something similar or am I just worried over nothing? Also will it go away on it’s own if we don’t give him anymore dairy??

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1521 Recommendations
Cats do become lactose intolerant, but itching isn't a typical sign of that problem. There are many possible reasons for Azrael's problem, including parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, and if he has scratched himself to the point where he has scabs, it isn't likely that it will go away on its own. It would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and determine the best course of treatment for him.

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Stray cat
Stray kitten
6 Weeks
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

not playing
Not perring
Laying around
Vomiting

Kids found stray kitten fed it ham and cheese from lunchable. Kitten was visiting and now just lays around and wont per or play. It has been 2 days now will this pass?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3195 Recommendations
The kitten may have difficulty digesting processed food and it may cause an intestinal obstruction especially in a kitten of such a young age; without examining it I couldn’t say for certain. It would be best to visit a Veterinarian (charity clinic, Humane Society etc…) to see if they can have a feel and see what is wrong. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sausage
tabby
1 Month
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Listless
Weakness
Pm only
Vomiting

My baby kitten (just about a month and a half im guessing) is getting sick every night. Hes fine and playing like normal during the day and like a switch, at night he gets very listless and pukes once or twice during the night. It seems to be happening when we give him evaporated milk. And its only liquid that he vomits, even though we feed him soft food at times, trying to ween him. I cant remember him getting sick when we had kitten formula. Could a milk allergy make him so listless and weak? Im a little worried about my little guy... thank you.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3195 Recommendations
Kittens normally do well with evaporated milk for a short period of time (or goat’s milk) but you should be trying to use kitten milk replacer and trying to wean Sausage; if Sausage is vomiting after milk you should stop feeding him the evaporated milk and try him with some kitten milk replacer to see if he still vomits. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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