What is Nut Allergy?
Cats with nut allergies often have intense itching of the ears and head as well as sneezing and agitation. The itchiness may be all over or just in certain areas and may cause hair loss and hot spots. Food allergies such as this may be overlooked because the signs mimic other conditions that are common in cats such as vomiting hairballs or scratching due to dry skin or fleas. However, if your cat is scratching a lot and has dermatitis (lesions) anywhere on the skin, along with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, you need to see a veterinary professional to check for allergies.
Nut allergies are not uncommon in cats even though they are generally considered to be nontoxic to animals. In fact, nut allergy is one of the three most common causes of itching in cats. Since there are many different kinds of nuts, the symptoms of nut allergies can vary, but it usually includes rash, vomiting, and itching. The severity of the side effects depends on the amount of nuts that your cat consumed. Similar to humans, even a small amount of exposure to nuts can cause an allergic reaction, so cat food or treats made in the same building as food or treats containing nuts can cause a reaction.
Symptoms of Nut Allergy in Cats
Because most of the symptoms of nut allergy are so similar to other common feline conditions, it may be difficult to determine whether your cat has an allergy or not. In fact, food allergies in cats and dogs are believed to be much more common than thought because it is sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as a different condition such as dermatitis or dry skin. One way to tell the difference between nut allergy and other conditions is whether your cat has both skin and digestive symptoms but the only way to be sure is by visiting the veterinarian for a diagnosis. The most often reported signs:
- Scratching at head and neck
- Chewing on paws and tail
- Runny and itchy eyes
- Coughing and sneezing
- Excessive grooming
- Red, irritated ears
- Hair loss
- Hot spots
- Snoring or wheezing when sleeping
Causes of Nut Allergy in Cats
The cause of nut allergies in cats is consuming anything that contains any kind of nut, which can cause a reaction to the skin and eyes, as well as the gastrointestinal system. Additionally, the respiratory and epidermal systems can be affected in such a way that your cat becomes extremely uncomfortable.
Diagnosis of Nut Allergy in Cats
It is difficult to diagnose a cat with a nut allergy because there are many ingredients in commercial pet food and treats. There are also other factors that can contribute such as the ingestion of human food and exposure to other substances that pets come into contact with on a daily basis. For example, if you touch your cat after handling certain foods like onions or garlic, your cat could get very ill. The oils from these vegetables are easily transferred to your cat’s fur and cats are constantly grooming themselves.
Your veterinarian will do a physical examination first, followed by blood tests, skin scrapings, fecal examination, and a urinalysis to check for underlying conditions that may be causing the symptoms. Bacterial and fungal cultures will rule out infections and flea combing will make sure your cat does not have fleas. After ruling out all the other common causes of these symptoms, the veterinarian will most likely suggest a food elimination diet to determine if it is the nuts that your cat is allergic to.
Treatment of Nut Allergy in Cats
The treatment for your cat will include oral and topical medications as well as a food elimination diet to verify the cause of the allergy. Even if the veterinarian believes that your cat has a nut allergy, other allergens need to be eliminated because your cat may be allergic to other foods as well. Similar to humans, having an allergic reaction to one food indicates your pet may be allergic to others.
Your veterinarian may give your cat a cortisone injection for immediate relief from itching and inflammation. In addition, cortisone cream will likely be used for the rash and itchiness and an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl is usually given at this time. Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant that is sometimes effective as well. If your cat has been scratching for a while, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections.
If your cat has had diarrhea and vomiting, the veterinarian will probably give your pet intravenous (IV) fluids. This helps prevent dehydration and increases circulation.
Food Elimination Diet
Changing your cat’s diet is the best way to check for allergies. Because many commercial pet foods have such a large variety of ingredients, the veterinarian will probably want to switch to a novel protein or hypoallergenic diet. The novel protein diet is done by switching your cat’s diet to a food with a protein that she has not been exposed to. This food has to be tried for at least 12 weeks to be accurate. A hypoallergenic diet is food in which the protein is broken into tiny molecules that will not produce a reaction from the immune system.
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Recovery of Nut Allergy in Cats
It may take a long time for you to find a food that does not cause an allergic reaction, but it will pay off in the long run. Nobody wants to see their pet miserable and itchy. The prognosis is good as this condition is rarely ever life-threatening.