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What is Rice Allergy?

Cats can have allergic reactions to rice, making it more difficult for cat owners to find a food that does not contain any form of rice. Allergies to rice can cause hot spots, itchy rashes, inflamed skin and recurrent ear infections. Gastrointestinal problems are also common symptoms of rice allergies in cats.

In many cases, your veterinarian will only be able to diagnose rice allergies after conducting an elimination diet test. This involves taking away all suspicious foods and then adding them back in one at a time over several weeks until an allergic reaction occurs. This then signals to your veterinarian that your cat is allergic to the newest ingredient that was added back into their diet.

Rice, no matter if it is whole, white, brown or wild, is not a nutritional requirement for a domesticated cat. In actuality, rice will decrease the amount of taurine in the plasma and whole blood of cats. Taurine is an amino acid that contains sulfur and is important for metabolizing fats. Many commercial cat foods add in taurine supplements but it does not seem to be enough in many instances.

Symptoms of Rice Allergy in Cats

Symptoms of rice allergies in cats can be intermittent or they can be chronic depending on the severity of the allergic reaction. If you notice any of these symptoms or are concerned because they keep recurring, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. When you go to your veterinary appointment, be sure to bring a list of the ingredients in your cat’s food.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose stools
  • Itching
  • Rash or hives
  • Hot spots
  • Bald spots
  • Inflamed skin
  • Recurrent ear infections

Causes of Rice Allergy in Cats

Rice allergies in your cat will occur when your cat’s immune system begins attacking itself and the allergen. Rice many times is simply used as filler in many commercial cat foods and does not hold real nutritional value. It also helps to reduce the volume of meat or protein that is added to the commercial cat food. 

Many commercial cat foods also contain emulsifiers, dyes, preservatives and flavor enhancers along with other fillers, including rice. For cats that have food allergies or intolerances, these foods may not be the best option. Know what is in your cat’s food and if you think that your cat may be experiencing an allergy to rice be sure to have them looked at by a veterinarian.

Diagnosis of Rice Allergy in Cats

When you arrive for your veterinary appointment bring a list of ingredients in your cat’s food. Be sure to describe the symptoms that you have seen and provide a thorough medical history on your cat. This will help your veterinarian eliminate potential causes of your cat’s symptoms. Your veterinarian will also probably ask you questions concerning your cat’s environment and if any changes have taken place. 

A physical examination will also be conducted. Your veterinarian may take a skin scraping if your cat has a rash or lesions. This will rule out mites or other skin conditions. A complete blood count, biochemistry panel and urinalysis will also be completed. A fecal exam may be ordered to help rule out intestinal parasites. 

Your veterinarian may opt to do specific allergy testing through a saliva or blood test if they have an idea of which allergen is causing the problem. It may be that your veterinarian has to have you do an elimination diet to find the exact cause of your cat’s allergies. This can take several weeks of adding ingredients back into your cat’s diet before it becomes apparent that rice is the culprit.

Treatment of Rice Allergy in Cats

Your veterinarian will first need to treat any symptoms that have presented. Antihistamines may be given as well as anti-inflammatory medications. If your cat is exhibiting signs of dermal itching, an anti-itch cream or medicated baths may be prescribed.

Steroids may also be prescribed, either injectable or oral, to stop the allergic reaction. The most common steroids that are prescribed for cats are prednisone and prednisolone. Cats cannot metabolize prednisone until their liver is able to convert it to prednisolone. Most veterinarians will simply prescribe prednisolone since it is easier for your cat to metabolize. Steroids are the most conventional treatments, besides antihistamines, for allergic reactions. They do come with some risks though and your veterinarian will need to monitor your cat while they are taking steroids. Kidney damage, stomach ulcers and diabetes can be side effects.

While hyposensitization therapy is not a common treatment for cats, your veterinarian may opt for it if they know the exact allergen that your cat is allergic to. The allergen is diluted and then injected into your cat to trigger the immune system to identify the allergen as not harmful so it no longer attacks the allergen sending your cat into an allergic reaction. These injections need to be given every 1 to 3 weeks, usually by your veterinarian.

Recovery of Rice Allergy in Cats

Once the allergic reaction has been stopped and the allergen identified, your cat should be on the road to recovery. However, you must eliminate rice of any kind from your cat’s diet to prevent them having another allergic reaction. If you are unsure about which food to feed your cat that does not contain rice, you can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.