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'Hypoallergenic Food' or Equivalent?

5924 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  ibbica
Hi, my cat has been battling dandruff/shedding since I've had her, and after research and failed solutions, I pretty much accepted it as her personal cat quirk . However, she pretty intensely scratches her ears, and I took her to the vet after she scratched one until it bled. They gave her a steroid shot that not only made her scratching subside, but seemed to improve her coat. So now I'm convinced she has some undetected food allergy. I'm looking into hypoallergenic foods, but they seem kind of ridiculous and to have similar carbohydrates. Has anyone had any experience/have any recommendations about what to feed kitties, or what to feed them during the two week allergy test period? I don't know a lot about the raw food diet, but would be willing to try it. Thanks!
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What have you been feeding and what have you already tried? It doesn't make sense for us to make all kinds if suggestions and have you come back and say "I already did that, didn't work".

If you're feeding low-mid quality foods, sometimes it's just as simple as upgrading to a high quality food. If you're already feeding high quality, you may need to try limited ingredient or raw. Why do you consider a hypoallergenic food ridiculous?

On the other hand, it may not be the food at all, many cats have environmental allergies...
Well there are several limited ingredient foods designed to help you remove what the cat is allergic to. A lot of regular foods may say they are "beef" but also have some chicken in them or something. The limited ingredient foods are usually one protein and one carb type. What foods has your cat been on so far? If she's been eating anything with wheat or soy in it then that would be the first thing to eliminate as they are common allergens. Chicken and fish are often allergens in cats as well. So if you choose to stick with commercial foods I'd start with something that uses no chicken, fish, wheat, or soy. It doesn't have to be a limited ingredient food (doesn't have to say it is) just be sure to read the label to make sure none of those ingredients are in there in small amounts. Chicken fat may be fine for cats allergic to chicken. Some kibbles are even using things other than potato in their grain free foods for dogs who don't do well with potato (peas, chick peas, tapioca) Are you looking at dry foods or wet foods? Off the top of my head I know Nature's Variety and California Natural make limited ingredient dry foods. Wet food will probably be easier to find with fewer ingredients (finding a chicken and fish free dry food might be rough) I think Before Grain wet food is likely limited ingredient. If going off of fish and chicken make things better you can try adding one of those back in at some point to see which ingredient it was, or just stick to avoiding both.

Now, raw is a wonderful option and I would encourage you to go that way for overall health if it's something you are willing to put a bit of time into. Some cats who are allergic to an ingredient in commercial foods are not allergic when it is raw. Raw allows you to know EXACTLY what is going into your cat, there are not a whole bunch of these smaller ingredients that you find in commercial foods. It is easy to avoid the allergen. Raw is also just awesome for your cat's health. If that is something you are interested in then head over to the raw subforum and look around and make a thread if you'd like, people will be more than happy to teach you about it.

It's also possible it's not an allergy but an overall response to being on a poor diet, I don't really know how steroids work. If it's just a low quality diet issue you may just need to switch to a better food or switch from dry to wet or raw. What brand are you feeding now?
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Thank you! My cursory research into specific hypoallergenic foods just revealed really expensive soy products, which seems strange to me. I'm honestly really overwhelmed by this whole idea, and really confused about where to start, so this forum is great!

I'm currently ruling out environmental because she stays with my dad occasionally when I go out of town (sometimes for a couple weeks) and has the exact same issue (I've come home to find bald ears). It's still a possibility, but food I feel I have more control over so I'm starting there?

I've fed her a wide range of what I hope to be 'high quality' food, a mixture of wet and dry (wet twice a day, dry out all the time): Wellness until their recall a year(?) ago, Avoderm, Blue Wilderness - finally settling on the seafood varieties (she dislikes chicken) of Weruva wet and Orijen dry. I've always dreamed of going raw, but have been a bit too timid to venture into that territory, but this might be the motivation I need. I've tried treating the dry skin/shedding specifically with fish oil, coconut oil, egg, etc. with no real results.

Eliminating wheat and soy seems like a really great first step. I was wondering too about the preservatives in the foods? I will look into those brands mentioned. Thank you!!
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OK that helps...

Sounds like you need to pick a single protein and carb source and stick with it for a while. I'd recommend going with canned food only as it's easier to find limited ingredients, especially without chicken. Natural Balance makes duck, chicken, salmon and venison all with green pea. EVO has their 95% meats; beef, ckn/tky, venison or duck. Instinct is fairly limited ingredient.

Pick a protein that has not been in her diet very much...if it were me I'd be looking at the the NB or EVO in duck or venison

If you find things clear up, then you can add things back in one at a time, wait a few weeks to see if there's any response. Then add another ingredient.
i just found one of the most exhaustive sites i have ever seen on feline nutrition. if you care to look at it, it's

it's gigantic in size but appears to have sound information on why cats with certain health concerns should not be eating particular things found in commercial cat food. (i.e. don't feed anything with soy in it to a cat with hyperthyroidism, etc.) she also includes a table with the nutritional info of some foods which is very helpful because it not only includes high-end food but more common, less expensive brands like fancy feast and whiskas. i will post the link to that table simply because it's a huuuuuuge site and kind of difficult to wade through: Canned Cat Food Nutritional Information

obviously you shouldn't trust what a manufacturer pushes on the public because their goal is to sell more cat food. (just an example: i didn't know that hill's science diet is extremely high in carbs and should never be fed but many vets push it.)

on the other hand, i take a lot of sites with a grain of salt until i have read several (case in point: colon flushes LOL) it's hard to trust the internet but some sources are better than others.

i don't know anything about hypoallergenic cat food, but i don't suppose they can give the little 20 injection test like my sister and i had as kids? well, not unless you shave the cat. i guess you'd have to start very stripped down and add things one at a time until *bingo*. i know plenty of people with IBS who are told to do that (and still won't) to find the offending food/drinks so i imagine it's just as annoying to have to try it with a cat. good luck.
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Okay, I'm going to look at those limited ingredient brands. Thanks!

That site is really useful, thank you! I try to do as much research as possible about cat food and cat food ingredients, but it gets really confusing for me.

I think the standard for cat allergies is to restrict the diet? There might be tests, but I'm not sure. There's no reason I haven't taken her back to the vet. I just figure I can handle the food part right now, and then I can take her in and we can evaluate if it doesn't seem to get better.
Allergy testing on cats isn't particularly reliable and it's expensive.
Thank you! My cursory research into specific hypoallergenic foods just revealed really expensive soy products, which seems strange to me.
A quick word on this... typically the 'hypoallergenic' foods that list soy in their ingredients, don't actually list simply "soy". What they contain is "hydrolyzed soy protein". This means that protein was extracted from soy and broken down into its individual amino acid components. Typically, an 'allergy' is a response to a whole (or large portion of a) protein. Individual amino acids (that all proteins are made up of) won't trigger allergic reactions.

Note that you can hydrolyze proteins from just about any source, including animals, to their component amino acids. The only thing that would change by using a different initial source would be the proportions of different amino acids, the amino acids themselves are all the same regardless of initial source.
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