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What is Venison Allergy?

Ten percent of the allergies that occur in dogs and cats are to food and are usually seen anytime from five months of age through their adulthood. 

Certain cat foods and cat treats will contain venison as one of their ingredients. An allergy to venison can occur if your cat’s immune system overreacts in response to his ingesting venison. During the excessive immune response, a histamine will be released, which will lead to the symptoms your cat experiences. The allergy will often present as an uncomfortable skin reaction where your cat is very itchy and his skin is red and inflamed. The ongoing scratching and picking at his skin can cause secondary skin wounds and ultimately a bacterial infection.

The result of a cat’s immune system overreacting to a particular glycoprotein in something he has consumed, an allergy to venison can result in excessive itching, skin inflammation and other symptoms.

Symptoms of Venison Allergy in Cats

If your cat develops an allergy to venison, he will experience symptoms that are similar to those seen in other food allergies. These include: 

  • Skin symptoms often starting at your cat’s head and neck
  • Scratching, biting and/or licking his skin
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Blisters/lesions or skin ulcerations
  • Swelling in his face and limbs
  • Hives
  • Inflammation in his paws

Your cat may also experience respiratory symptoms, for example coughing and difficulty breathing. Diarrhea and vomiting can also occur, along with chronic ear infections and lethargy. 

Types

Your cat may have a food intolerance prior to or at the same time as an allergy. A food intolerance will often present itself with gastrointestinal difficulties; you might notice gurgling sounds from your cat’s digestive system.

In food allergies, many times the symptoms will start on the head and neck of your cat and he will experience a loss of hair, lesions on his skin and feel very itchy.

Causes of Venison Allergy in Cats

Most of your cat’s immune system cells are in his gastrointestinal system. An allergy occurs when your cat’s immune system overreacts to a food that he has consumed. After he has digested the food, it will be broken down into amino acids, which will be absorbed by enterocytes that are then taken into his bloodstream. When the proteins in the food are not properly broken down, the enterocytes will think they are intruders and will attack them, causing the allergy symptoms. 

Your cat can develop an allergy to any food. Foods that commonly cause allergies in cats include:

  • Lamb
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Corn
  • Seafood
  • Dairy

Diagnosis of Venison Allergy in Cats

When noticing symptoms or a change in behavior in your cat, you will want to bring him to your veterinarian for a check-up. Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your cat and ask you for details in regards to the symptoms you noticed, when you first noticed them and whether you have observed any behavior changes. In addition, you will want to let your veterinarian know about the food that your cat eats as well as any supplements that he takes.

It is likely that your veterinarian will perform blood work so that he can get an idea of how your cat’s internal organs are functioning. A packed cell volume (PCV) can be conducted to determine if your cat is dehydrated. After noticing the skin symptoms your cat is exhibiting, your veterinarian will likely take a sample of your cat’s skin cells for viewing under a microscope, where he will look for any parasites, yeast and bacteria.

Once other causes have been ruled out for the symptoms your cat is experiencing, your veterinarian will consider a food allergy. In order to confirm the diagnosis and what food your cat is allergic to, your veterinarian will recommend that your cat be placed on a novel diet. This will consist of bland food that differs from what he is currently eating. It is recommended that your cat should remain on this diet for 90 days at a minimum. Should your cat be experiencing a food allergy, his symptoms will likely resolve while he is on the novel diet. After around 90 days on the novel diet, your veterinarian will recommend reintroducing things that your cat has consumed in the past one at a time. If your cat’s symptoms return after venison is reintroduced, it will point toward his having an allergy to venison.

Treatment of Venison Allergy in Cats

While your cat is on the novel diet, he will initially have symptoms of the allergy. Your veterinarian may offer antihistamines or corticosteroids to help with itching and swelling; though masking the symptoms may make it more challenging to confirm what elements of his food he is allergic to.  Your veterinarian may recommend avoiding these medications while your cat is on a novel diet, to best determine which protein he is reacting to. Once you have confirmed what your cat’s allergy is too, you will want to keep that food out of his diet. In the case of a secondary infection, perhaps due to chronic itching and biting, antibiotics will be recommended.

Recovery of Venison Allergy in Cats

Should an allergy to venison be confirmed, it should be removed from your cat’s diet. This will help symptoms to resolve on their own. Cats that have a food allergy will often develop allergies to other items in the future, meaning you should keep an eye on your cat for reactions to other foods throughout his life.