What is Fancy Feast Allergy?
A sensitivity to a particular food item can occur at any age, and often develops for a food that your cat has been eating for a long time. It may be difficult to know exactly which part of your cat’s diet may be causing problems in her immune system, as canned pet foods such as Fancy Feast also contain many artificial flavorings, colors, emulsifiers, and preservatives that can trigger an allergic response. Popular proteins, such as chicken and seafood, are also common allergens seen in cats.
Many cat owners are delighted with the cost and availability of Fancy Feast foods. But while their cats seem to enjoy the taste, they may also be developing an allergy to one or more ingredients in the food. Cats can become allergic to meat proteins, corn, grain, or soy, or even to the artificial dyes and preservatives that are often used in many popular pet foods. The resultant digestive and skin complaints can be a signal that your kitty has become sensitive to something in her diet.
Symptoms of Fancy Feast Allergy in Cats
The digestive, respiratory and skin problems that can occur due to a food allergy can take a long time to appear. Often, these symptoms gradually emerge over many months or years, and can be mistaken for something else. Digestive complaints can cause your cat to avoid her food, and can result in dramatic weight loss, while the constant scratching of inflamed skin can predispose her to bacterial infections. Symptoms of a food allergy include:
- Loose stools
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Excessive grooming
- Excessive scratching
- Rubbing face on objects
- Itchy, reddened and inflamed skin
- Skin lesions, scabs and rashes
- Hair loss
- Leathery patches of skin
- Lip ulcers
- Bacterial skin infections
- Miliary dermatitis, or little bumps and scabs commonly seen on the neck or rear areas
- Excessive ear wax
- Ear infections
- Cracked paw pads
- Scooting rear end on floor or carpets
Causes of Fancy Feast Allergy in Cats
When the immune system develops a sensitivity to a certain food, a food allergy can occur. This commonly happens with a food that has been fed day after day for years. After your cat has eaten that food repeatedly, the immune system responds by producing a larger than normal amount of antibodies to remove the foreign invaders. As the antibodies attack, histamine is released, the chemical responsible for producing the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
When your cat’s ancestors were wild, their diet consisted mainly of animal proteins. The only vegetable matter wild cats ate would have been found in small amounts in the prey animals’ gastrointestinal tract. There certainly weren’t any artificial colors, dyes, or preservatives in the diet.
Today, commercial pet foods are filled with things that cats are not biologically programmed to process. This can cause those inappropriate food items to sit in your cat’s digestive system without getting processed, and this can trigger the immune response to attack. Vomiting up food and the appearance of bumps on the skin are the body’s way of trying to eliminate the allergens.
Diagnosis of Fancy Feast Allergy in Cats
A food allergy can be difficult to narrow down, especially if your cat has been eating a commercial canned food like Fancy Feast. Determining the ingredients in your cat’s diet will give you an idea of what your cat has been exposed to. The most promising diagnostic method is to change your cat’s diet.
There are many types of specialized diets on the market, including nontraditional protein sources, such as rabbit, duck, or venison, diets that eliminate fillers, such as grains, corn, and soy, or hydrolyzed diets which break down proteins into small particles that make it difficult for the immune system to recognize. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a diet that contains none of the ingredients of the previous diet, and may even suggest a raw or homemade one. Generally, the new diet needs to be given for up to 8 to 12 weeks, after which time the old food may be reintroduced to assess your cat’s response. The findings of these diet changes can lead to a diagnosis of an allergy to a particular food item, whether it be a meat protein such as chicken or fish, a carbohydrate, or even the preservatives, dyes and flavors that may have been in the old diet.
There are other methods that can help lead your veterinarian to a diagnosis, but they are often not as accurate as a food elimination diet. These include allergy tests using blood samples or a skin test. A blood test can measure the antibodies in the blood and can sometimes reveal the presence of a specific allergen. The skin test injects various allergens into the skin to see if a reaction occurs. Your veterinarian may also take a biopsy of the skin or intestinal tissue for testing to confirm the presence of an allergy.
Treatment of Fancy Feast Allergy in Cats
Treatment of an allergy to the ingredients in Fancy Feast cat food is to eliminate Fancy Feast from your cat’s diet. However, it is unlikely that your cat is allergic to only this type of canned food. Using the diagnostic elimination diet can help to narrow down just what your cat is allergic to so that you can eliminate all sources of that allergen from your cat’s food.
Feeding a specialized diet for at least 2 to 3 months can help to clear out any allergic substances from the previous diet, and allow the immune system to relax. After the period of the food trial ends, slowly reintroduce one food at a time that may have been the cause of the allergy to assess your cat’s reaction. An allergic response usually appears within a week or two.
If you find that your cat is allergic to a meat protein, then there is a chance it could develop a sensitivity to another meat protein that has been substituted. Because of this risk, you may want to rotate foods. Feeding clean proteins may also be an option, such as hormone-free, or grass fed animals.
Other treatments are symptomatic, and include antibiotics for infections, anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids to treat inflammation, soothing medicated baths for itchy skin, and a safe ear cleaner for ear infections.
Recovery of Fancy Feast Allergy in Cats
There is no cure for food allergies, and if your cat suffers from one, it will need lifelong management. Thankfully, once the allergen has been identified, simply keeping it out of the diet will ensure the absence of an allergic response to that food. After the offending food has been eliminated from your cat’s diet for 8 to 10 weeks, you should see symptoms subside. If, however, your cat is fed the food again, symptoms may reappear.
There is no way to know when a sensitivity to a particular food may develop, but experts suggest providing a variety of foods for your cat. Rotating foods that are balanced and appropriate for your cat’s needs can reduce the risk of a food allergy developing.