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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.