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What is Olive Oil Allergy?

Often used in cooking and in different foods, olive oil can elicit an allergy in cats. While a rare occurrence, the immune system in some cats will overreact to olive oil, causing symptoms similar to those of other food allergies. 

Olive oil is present in many commercial cat foods and should you notice symptoms of an allergy in your cat, your veterinarian can help you narrow down what it is that your cat is reacting to.

When a cat is experiencing an allergy to a particular food or protein within it, it is the result of their immune system overreacting to one or more of the elements within the food consumed.

Symptoms of Olive Oil Allergy in Cats

If your cat has an allergy to olive oil, he may demonstrate one or more symptoms as a result of his immune system’s reaction. These symptoms can include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Skin that is dry and flaky
  • Seemingly obsessive licking and/or biting
  • Loss of hair
  • Stomach upset 
  • Loose stool/diarrhea

These symptoms can occur immediately upon ingesting olive oil or develop over the course of time.

Types 

There are a variety of brands of olive oil available to be purchased and used as a supplement or in the making of homemade cat food. Each cat food will be made with different brands and amounts of olive oil.

Causes of Olive Oil Allergy in Cats

Most of your cat’s immune system cells are in his gastrointestinal system. When his immune system overreacts to something that he has eaten, it is considered an allergy. Some cats will experience this when ingesting olive oil, whether on its own or within your cat’s food. Should you add olive oil to the diet of your cat, perhaps to promote his skin and coat health, an imbalance can occur which can lead to skin problems and other symptoms. 

As your cat digests anything he consumes, his system will break it down into amino acids. These amino acids will be absorbed by enterocytes and transported into his bloodstream. When the proteins of the ingested food are not broken down as they should, the enterocytes will think that they are intruders and will attack them. This will lead to the allergy response.

Diagnosis of Olive Oil Allergy in Cats

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your cat and will ask you questions regarding the symptoms you have noticed, when you first noticed them and whether you have observed any changes. It is likely that your veterinarian will inquire about your cat’s diet as well as any supplements he takes.

Blood work will be conducted in order to determine how your cat’s internal organs are functioning. Particularly if your cat is experiencing a lot of gastrointestinal symptoms, a packed cell volume (PCV) may be administered to make sure that your cat is not dehydrated and a urine sample may be taken to see how your cat’s kidneys are functioning. Your veterinarian will likely take a sample of his skin cells to examine under a microscope. This will help your veterinarian rule out parasites, yeast and bacteria as causes of the symptoms your cat is experiencing.

Once other causes have been ruled out, your veterinarian will consider that your cat may be experiencing a food allergy. To confirm this your veterinarian will recommend that your cat be put on a novel diet. This will typically involve a very bland diet that is different from what he has been eating. Your cat will remain on this diet for at least 90 days; should his symptoms resolve themselves during this time, it will point to his having an allergy to something that he had been eating previously. You can start reintroducing things he had previously consumed, such as olive oil, one at a time. If symptoms reappear, then you will know what it is that your cat is allergic to.

Treatment of Olive Oil Allergy in Cats

In order to treat your cat’s allergy to olive oil, you will have to keep it out of his diet. To do so, you will have to make sure all members of your household are on board with your cat’s diet and don’t feed him table scraps or treats that have olive oil in them. Should you be unable to find a commercial brand of cat food with minimal or no olive oil, you can prepare homemade cat food with ingredients that your cat is able to tolerate. 

While your cat is on the novel diet, at least initially he will be experiencing symptoms of the allergy. Depending on their severity your veterinarian may recommend treating the symptoms with corticosteroids and antihistamines to help the swelling and itching, though eliminating the symptoms completely may make it challenging to determine the cause of the allergy. 

If your cat develops a secondary infection due to excessive licking and biting, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to resolve it.

Recovery of Olive Oil Allergy in Cats

Once it has been determined that your cat has an allergy to olive oil, upon it being removed from his diet, his symptoms should resolve themselves. As cats with a food allergy often develop additional food allergies down the road, you will want to keep a close watch on your cat for future symptoms.