In this article, I will be talking about the best dry cat food for allergies. Cats with food allergies need an elimination diet to find out what foods are causing the allergies.
I chose ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food as the best dry cat food for allergies. This food contains a high amount of quality protein from lamb. This is a limited ingredient novel protein food.
Cats are allergic to many things including dust, fleas, pollen, and food. About 10% of cat allergies are food-related.
Food allergies develop from progressive exposure to common food proteins. Typical food allergens include common protein sources such as chicken, beef, fish, wheat, and dairy.
Uncommon (novel) protein sources may give your cat relief from allergies. These protein sources include lamb, rabbit, duck, and goat.
An elimination diet restricts the use of common food proteins and uses either novel proteins. The owner then trials their cat with individual food items to identify the problem food. Removal of the food is the only solution after identifying the problem food.
In some cases, vets prescribe a specialty veterinary diet. This involves the use of hydrolyzed food. This food is not intended for regular dietary use.
At Simply Cat Care, we recommend the best quality food to improve your cat’s chance of living out a happy life. In this review, I’ve analyzed the best dry cat food for allergies on the market to find which ones are suitable for your cat.
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet before making a purchase. Vets diagnose and prescribe the appropriate diet for food allergies.
Let’s get into the review.
Product Review: The Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies in 2021
Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies Overall: ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food
Looking for hypoallergenic cat foods is a tough ask, especially dry cat foods. Let’s look at how ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Lamb Cat Food is different.
The majority of brands have a love affair with peas, potatoes, grains, corn, and tapioca starch. Almost every dry cat food is a ‘nonstarter’ for long-term health.
I like that ZIWI peak uses high-quality dried lamb and nutritious New Zealand green mussels. Since the product is air dried it doesn’t contain the grains and other fillers common with other dry cat foods.
The cost is a little higher than typical dry cat food due to the quality. The only novel protein options are lamb and venison. Some cats may want more variety and flavors.
Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies Freeze Dried: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels for Cats
Freeze-dried cat food is another great cat food option.
Unlike dry food, freeze-dried products don’t tend to use carbohydrate-rich peas, potato, corn, wheat, or soy. Cats with sensitive stomachs will appreciate this easy-to-digest product.
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried contains only the novel protein rabbit (also has a turkey option). Rabbit is one of the better hypoallergenic foods for cat food allergies and nutritious food to add to your cat’s menu.
Freeze-dried cat food is still more expensive than regular kibble for cats. The food also needs preparation with rehydration and heating.
Guide: The Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies
Let’s talk about what to look for when buying hypoallergenic cat foods.
The goal of this article is to help you understand your cat allergy situation and guide you in the decision-making process.
This article is not a replacement for the professional advice of a vet.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is for a cat owner that is trying to prevent their cat from having an allergic reaction.
This will concern not only cats with an identified allergy but cats with a suspected allergy.
If you do suspect your cat has an allergy, feel free to read this article however I recommend getting the assistance of a vet.
A vet will help identify what your cat is allergic to and provide the right treatment.
What are cat allergies?
An allergy is something that causes the immune system to overreact.
Allergens include hair, pollen, food, dust, and certain medications . Food allergies occur at any stage during a cat’s life.
An allergen can affect the cat via ingestion, inhalation, or contact with the skin. If a cat has an allergy to something then it will have an acute or delayed allergic reaction.
Antibodies are the cause of allergic reactions. They release upon exposure to an allergen.
Antibodies release a protein called histamine which inflames areas of the body such as the nose, throat, and digestive system .
How do I know if my cat is allergic to food?
If a cat is allergic to something in their food then they will experience symptoms in the gastrointestinal system as well as the face and skin.
Common signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Itchy skin
- Swollen eyes
Cats experience allergies to many things. Fleas are a source of allergies as well as dust. Cats can experience an unpleasant skin condition called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) with flea exposure .
Check out my guide to flea treatment to help fight the war against fleas.
What should I do if I think my cat has an allergy?
If your cat is experiencing repeated symptoms, schedule an appointment with a vet.
To determine the cause of the allergy, vets perform blood and/or skin prick tests.
The vet will send your cat’s blood for laboratory examination. Skin prick tests involve exposure to various substances to see if a skin reaction (e.g. swelling, redness, hives) occurs .
The vet will prescribe the proper treatment after identifying the offending food or foreign body that causes the allergy. This may involve eliminating food items from your cat’s diet, flea treatment, or medication.
If no allergen is found, vets may suggest an elimination diet. This involves giving your cat a diet of novel protein foods and trialing common foods to find the trouble source.
What can I do to prevent my cat from having allergies?
The best thing you can do to minimize the risk of your cat having allergies is to keep your house clean.
This involves thorough vacuuming and dusting to keep the flea population down. In addition, your cat may need a topical flea treatment with consultation with the vet.
Check out our article on the best flea collar to learn more about topical flea treatment.
What ingredients in cat food cause allergies?
About 10% of all cat allergies are dietary-related .
The protein in chicken, beef, dairy (e.g. milk and cheese), eggs, wheat (i.e. gluten), and fish are the main culprits . However, your cat can be allergic to even more foods.
Cat’s experience digestive symptoms in contact with foods they are allergic to (e.g. vomiting, diarrhea) .
A lot of cat food brands use a wide variety of ingredients, so teasing out the offending substance is a difficult task. This is why seeking the assistance of a vet is the best way to identify the problem and help your cat.
Another method of identifying food allergies or intolerances is the elimination diet.
Food intolerance doesn’t involve an allergic reaction (i.e. doesn’t lead to an increase in antibodies) but may lead to unpleasant symptoms such as bloating and fatigue.
What is an elimination diet?
If your vet isn’t able to identify the cause of your cat’s allergies, they may suggest a food elimination diet.
This involves starting your cat on a very simple hypoallergenic cat food with limited ingredients.
An elimination diet involves the following:
Hydrolyzed protein diet
Hydrolyzed proteins reduce the size of protein into amino acids predigestion. The immune system cannot recognize these proteins, and will not produce the antibodies that lead to allergic reactions.
A range of prescription hydrolyzed cat food formulas exist. They require a prescription and are for short-term elimination diet use.
Novel protein diet
A novel protein is an uncommon protein source (e.g. lamb, venison, goat, turkey, duck). An elimination diet may use limited ingredient novel protein commercial or homemade food .
Your vet will decide what the appropriate course of action is depending on the situation.
With both approaches, the addition of individual foods (called a food challenge) over a period of 1-3 months occurs.
If any negative symptoms occur, removal of the offending food solves the problem .
Can allergies be cured?
Once a cat has an allergy, there is nothing that will cure it. Management is the only solution, which involves selecting foods that don’t expose the cat to the offending substance .
As long as the cat is not exposed to harmful food, then it is able to live a happy and healthy life.
What cat foods are hypoallergenic?
Cat’s develop allergies upon exposure to a food.
If your cat hasn’t consumed food, it cannot produce antibodies to the protein. That means cats cannot develop an allergy until consuming the food on multiple occasions.
Chicken and fish are the main ingredients in many cat foods. Cats are more likely to be allergic to these common proteins.
Duck, venison, rabbit, goat, kangaroo are usually proteins (called ‘novel proteins’) with limited exposure. This doesn’t mean your cat isn’t able to develop a food allergy to these foods.
However, they are suitable alternatives in the meantime until a diet trial identifies the offending food.
These limited ingredient foods are available commercially or through home preparation. There are some cat food brands that do offer limited ingredient meat products which are useful for tackling allergies.
A vet may prescribe a hydrolyzed protein cat food. An elimination diet may require this specialty food.
Check with your vet for help determining the right strategy for your cat.
Are cats allergic to milk?
Cats are rarely allergic to milk.
However, cats do experience lactose intolerance after consuming a small amount of milk. The average cat can tolerate 85ml of milk without harm.
Read more about whether milk is bad for cats over here.
What does hypoallergenic cat food mean?
This is food containing a source of protein that gets broken down for easier digestion and reduced allergy risk. Hypoallergenic cat foods require a vet prescription.
These foods are sometimes used by vets for an elimination diet as they contain hydrolyzed protein.
Due to the carbohydrate content and other nutritional values, they may not be suitable ‘long term’ foods.
Check out my guide to feeding your cat for top health.
What cat food helps with allergies?
Cat food that has limited ingredients and contains novel proteins (i.e. meats less often used in cat food such as duck and kangaroo) is less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
If you are looking for high-quality protein source food for your cat, then these products are a great option.
However, your cat may need a prescription diet with hydrolyzed protein formulas to tackle allergies. These foods need vet approval in order to purchase the foods.
Discuss the best available options for your cat with a vet.
Be mindful of food labeling
When looking for a limited ingredient or single protein (novel protein) cat food to give your cat, be mindful of food labeling and the ingredient list.
Many cat food tins will state the flavor, but that won’t be the main ingredient. If a cat food says ‘recipe’, ‘dinner’, ‘nuggets’, ‘entree’, or any other descriptor the ingredients may have foods unsuitable for limited ingredient diets.
Read more about label reading over here to find the best cat food.
What is the best dry cat food for allergies?
A prescription dry cat food containing hydrolyzed proteins is often used for elimination diets.
Dry foods containing novel proteins and limited ingredients may be less likely to lead to allergies in cats.
Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities Cat Food is one food (that needs a prescription) used for food allergies. The food is only needed during an elimination diet and isn’t recommended for regular use.
As for long-term regular dietary use, I recommend ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food – All Natural, High Protein, Grain-Free & Limited Ingredient with Superfoods. This is a healthy low-carb dry cat food high in nutritional value. This is a great choice for cats.
Conclusion: Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies (Final Thoughts)
In this article, I’ve talked about the best hypoallergenic cat foods in the dry cat food range.
Here are my final thoughts on the best dry cat food for allergies:
- Cats experience food allergies as humans do
- Cats are allergic to many things including dust, fleas, pollen, and food. 10% of all cat allergies are food related
- An allergy results in an abnormal immmune response. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, puffy eyes, and diarrhea
- If you suspect you cat has a food allergy, seek out the advice of a vet
- Vets will perform a physical and medical examination to rule out causes of the allergic symptoms
- If your vet finds the allergen, this substance is avoided (e.g. chicken)
- If your vet doesn’t find the cause of the allergen, they may suggest an elmination diet
- This involves a limited ingredient diet of novel proteins or a hydrolyzed vet prescribed cat food
- Novel proteins include things like rabbit, duck, turkey and lamb. They don’t get used that often in cat foods, so it is less likely your cat is allergic to these proteins
- Most dry cat food contains common protein (e.g. chicken) and isn’t good for self-directed elimination diets
- The best product I found on the market was Ziwi Peak air-dried lamb. In fact it was the only dry cat food I found that met the criteria for allergy management
- Freeze dried cat foods may have novel protein and limited ingredient options to supplement the main diet
If you suspect an allergy, but do not have a vet prescription you can investigate the use of a limited ingredient cat food. However, I recommend always consulting with a vet to rule out environmental causes or other health issues.
Our Top Pick: Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies in 2021
I recommend the ZIWI Peak air-dried cat food for the following reasons:
- It contains lamb (a novel protein) and to reduce allergy risk
- The food contains complete nutrition for top health
- It is grain, legume, and carrageenan free for easy digestion
- It is a limited ingredient cat food product to reduce food intolerance risk
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