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What is Raw Food Allergy?

Raw food diet for your cat can include fresh or frozen foods that are homemade or bought at the store. There are some cat food companies that now produce raw food that is available in frozen containers. 

There are times when a cat may become intolerant or develop an allergy to something that is in their raw food diet. This can cause a lot of headache for cat owners as they try to figure out what is causing their cat to have an allergic reaction.

The most common food allergies for cats include chicken, beef, eggs, lamb, fish and dairy. An allergy can develop at any time to any protein that your cat is repeatedly exposed.

Many cat owners are opposed to the ingredients that are found in commercial cat foods and instead opt to feed their cat a raw food diet. Cats that are allergic to many of the ingredients in commercial cat food are also many times fed a raw food diet.

Symptoms of Raw Food Allergy in Cats

Sometimes it is difficult to determine if your cat is having an allergic reaction to their food or something in their environment. Food related allergies will generally be dermal or skin related and/or gastrointestinal related. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. 

  • Rash, especially around the ears and face
  • Excessive licking on their paws, stomach and/or legs
  • Red and/or itchy ears
  • Severe itching either localized or generalized
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Causes of Raw Food Allergy in Cats

Over time, your cat can develop an allergy to certain ingredients in their food. When you feed a raw food diet that is high in protein, your cat can develop an allergy to one of the proteins in their raw food diet that is constantly fed. The most common proteins that cat can become allergic to include beef, chicken, fish, lamb, eggs and dairy. 

An allergic reaction occurs when your cat is exposed to an allergen that their immune system views as foreign. Their immune system then attacks itself and the allergen that has invaded their body.

Diagnosis of Raw Food Allergy in Cats

Your veterinarian will take a full medical history on your cat and will ask questions regarding your cat’s diet and environment. A thorough physical examination will be performed and a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam and biochemistry panel. This will help your veterinarian narrow down the possible causes of your cat’s allergy.

Many times your veterinarian will not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of your cat’s allergy without going through trial and error or essentially doing the elimination diet. This means that you will begin taking things away from your cat’s diet to try and determine what is causing the problem. This can be time consuming since it takes at least two weeks for your cat’s symptoms to improve following the elimination of the allergen.

Treatment of Raw Food Allergy in Cats

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed the raw food allergy in your cat they will discuss treatment options with you. Depending on the severity of the allergy, there will be different options that can be done to alleviate your cat’s allergic reaction. 

Steroids are conventional treatments that work great when your cat is experiencing a food allergy. Steroids can be given in injection or oral form and are commonly called corticosteroids or glucocorticoids. The most common steroids prescribed are prednisone and prednisolone. For cats, prednisone is much harder to metabolize and it has to be converted in the liver to prednisolone before it is effective. There are serious side effects associated with steroids and it is a good idea to have your veterinarian closely monitor your cat when they are prescribed. Steroids can cause kidney damage and ulcers in the stomach. Diabetes is another possible side effect, especially if your cat is given the injectable kind. 

Hyposensitization therapy is not a common treatment for cats since it does require that your veterinarian knows the exact thing that your cat is allergic to. If the allergen is known, the allergen is diluted and then injected into your cat to trigger the immune system into realizing that the allergen is not harmful. These injections need to be given by your veterinarian every 1 to 3 weeks. 

Prescription diets and hypoallergenic diets may be recommended. These diets utilize novel protein sources and carbohydrate sources. These diets should contain one protein source, one carbohydrate source, minerals and vitamins and no other additives or fillers. Diet trials will last at least 12 weeks. During this time your cat will need to be fed only the trial food with no treats or supplements given.

Recovery of Raw Food Allergy in Cats

Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of your cat’s raw food allergy, the best way to keep your cat from experiencing problems is to simply avoid that food. When feeding a raw food diet make sure it is a balanced diet with one protein source, one carbohydrate and necessary vitamins and minerals. Do not feed the same protein source for long periods of time; your cat will have an increased risk of suffering intolerance if fed the same protein every day. It is suggested that you rotate their protein source often. You can speak with your veterinarian and ask for their suggestions regarding your cat’s raw food diet.