Those of us who have had animals all our lives are likely familiar with the frustrating condition that is feline allergic dermatitis.
Allergic cats will over-react to normal things in their environment and those with skin allergies will develop skin irritation, inflammation and itchiness.
While your cat may be reacting to their food, it is also possible that they are allergic to other things in their environment such as grass, house dust mites and fleas.
Feeding your affected feline with the best cat foods for skin allergies is one of the first measures you can take in controlling their disease.
Quick look: Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Skin Allergies
|Royal Canin Hypoallergenic HP Dry Diet||A|
|Hill’s Z/D Canned Cat Food||A|
|Hill’s D/D Skin and Food Sensitivities Canned||A|
|Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free Dry Indoor Cat Food||A++|
|Instinct Limited Canned Cat Food||A+|
There are plenty of other interventions that may be necessary depending on what your cat is reacting to.
Diagnostic tests, such as blood tests or intradermal skin tests may be carried out to best determine what is causing your cat’s allergic skin disease.
Many cats will be found to have several allergies.
Avoidance is the best way to prevent a reaction, which is why hypoallergenic and restricted protein diets are crucial when dealing with a food allergy.
Even those cats who are allergic to environmental or parasitic triggers but not to foods can benefits from diets targeted at those with skin allergies.
Supporting the coat and skin nutritionally can help any animal with sensitive skin and a strengthened skin barrier can prevent infection, inflammation and pruritus.
Along with diet, the vast majority of cats will benefit from other interventions, such as skin supplements, immunotherapy and medication.
Allergic skin disease is rarely cured and must be managed for the duration of the cat’s life.
As such, diets will often need to be fed lifelong.
Specialised diets work best when fed alone, as feeding them alongside regular cat food, treats or human scraps will often negate the benefits.
This is especially true for hypoallergenic diets, which will only work when fed alone.
Royal Canin Hypoallergenic HP Dry Diet
Most veterinary professionals and nutritionists would agree that Royal Canin are one of the most well-respected cat food manufacturers and make some of the best cat food for cats with skin allergies.
This hypoallergenic diet is frequently the first food recommended by vets for those cats with suspected food allergies resulting in allergic skin disease.
A true hypoallergenic diet trial can help to rule in or rule out food allergies, though is only effective when strictly adhered to.
A minimum of eight weeks is required to determine if the trial has improved the skin condition.
During the eight weeks, the cat is fed on only the hydrolysed diet and nothing else at all.
Feeding any treats or human scraps renders the diet trial immediately ineffective and the eight-week period must start again from day zero.
This can be particularly difficult in households with toddlers who drop food, in multi-pet households where food is left down or for cats that have outdoor access and may scavenge or hunt for food.
If the diet trial is deemed a success, it is wise to continue feeding only the hydrolysed diet.
A ‘challenge’ could be introduced to prove beyond doubt that the cat does indeed have a food allergy.
To do this, once the trial has ended the cat is fed any non-hypoallergenic food, and a recurrence of skin symptoms indicates a positive result.
Any cats deemed to have a food allergy must be kept on a prescription diet for their entire life to avoid skin disease.
Owners may elect to try to add certain ingredients over the time if they wish.
For example, if a cat’s favourite food is tuna, this can be tentatively introduced alongside the prescription diet for a few weeks.
If there is no reaction, the cat is likely not allergic to tuna and can be fed it from time to time.
Of course, any skin reaction would mean that tuna is off the menu!
Hill’s Z/D Canned Cat Food
Alongside Royal Canin, Hill’s are the ‘Top Dogs’ in the feline nutrition industry; and with good reason.
They too make some of the best cat food for skin allergies and are a firm favourite of pets, breeders and owners alike.
The Z/D canned diet is a wet diet that contains no intact animal protein, meaning any cat with allergic skin disease is unlikely to react to it.
As well as the lack of intact proteins, this food contains omega three and six fatty acids to support skin health and digestible sources of fats and carbohydrates to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
Indeed, often allergic skin disease and stomach sensitivity go hand in hand.
The single animal protein that is contained within this diet is sourced from chicken liver but is highly hydrolysed so that even those animals with a chicken allergy will not react to it.
Hydrolysation is the process whereby the molecules are broken down into such small particles that the body cannot react to them; pretty smart huh?!
This process makes the food particularly digestible, meaning it is also a great option for those felines suffering with conditions such as IBD and pancreatitis.
As wonderful as the hydrolysation process is, it does have one major drawback.
Often, breaking down the proteins can reduce the palatability of the food.
Though food manufacturers attempt to combat this, some cats are not sold on the taste of these diets.
Warming them up gently to release the smells and tastes may help.
Of course, do not be tempted to mix in any yummy food such as fish or chicken!
As well as being a hydrolysed diet, this food contains no soy protein, lactose or artificial colours or flavour; ingredients which many cats can react to.
Hills D/D Skin and Food Sensitivities Canned Food
Following on from the Hill’s Z/D option is their popular D/D option.
D/D differs from Z/D in that it is not a hydrolysed diet, however it only contains one source of protein.
In this case, the protein used is duck as a duck allergy is rare in cats, who tend to be allergic to foods they have had previous exposure to, such as chicken, beef and dairy.
This limited ingredient food also contains absolutely no gluten, soya or grain though does contain plenty of antioxidants and fatty acids to support skin health.
This high-quality diet not only prevents allergic skin reactions but also supports the immune system and is a good option for those cats with sensitive stomachs.
Highly digestible, D/D is a superb option for those with chronic vomiting and diarrhea who also suffer from ongoing dermatitis.
As with other limited ingredient diets, feeding this diet alongside anything else is a total waste of time and must be avoided.
If your cat does have outdoor access, consider giving them a collar which reads ‘Do not feed me’ and has a small bell to reduce their success when out hunting.
Make sure that all the family are on board with their diet and any other pet is fed in a different room.
Treats and chews must never be left around and the floors should be kept clear of any crumbs or food debris at all times.
Many animals find this diet highly palatable, particularly as the protein source has not been hydrolysed (which often reduce taste).
Consider this food for fussy cats.
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Indoor Adult Cat Food
This offering from Blue Buffalo works off a similar principle to the Hill’s D/D diet, in that it is not hydrolysed but contains a limited number of ingredients, all of which have been carefully selected due to the low chance of cats reacting to them.
This diet completely avoids using those ingredients which the majority of cats react to, which include chicken, beef, eggs, milk, soy, corn and wheat.
Instead, they use duck as the very first ingredient and use peas as an additional protein source.
Pumpkin is added as it is an easily digested carbohydrate source that is gentle on the gut and can improve stool quality and bulk up any loose stool.
As with other Blue Buffalo diets, the company have continued to include their ‘LifeSource bits’ which are a tasty blend of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, essential for your cat to remain healthy and maintain their internal oxidative balance.
We particularly like the fact that this food can be eaten by cats at any life stage, include kittens.
This means that it is a great option for multi-cat household where there are kittens as well as cats with food allergies and sensitive skin.
Life is made a lot simpler when all of the cats in the house can be fed the same diet, meaning no need for feeding in separate rooms and giving owners the ability to ‘graze feed’ their pet rather than having to feed them at strict meal times, which certainly offers less flexibility.
For kittens and immature cats, owners may choose to mix the hard kibble with some warm water to soften the biscuits and making eating easier.
Once they are old enough, the food should be fed dry, which promotes periodontal health and prevent gum disease in later life.
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Canned Cat Food
With just one protein and one vegetable source, this canned food from Instinct is well-suited to cats with sensitivities.
Unlike the other foods listed, this diet uses turkey as their protein source.
Though turkey allergies are less common than chicken allergies, turkey is a very common meat nowadays and many cats will have been previously exposed to turkey at some stage in their life and a turkey allergy is a possibility.
Many companies prefer to use rarer meats such as venison and duck to avoid the chances of a previous exposure.
However, As this diet does not contain any chicken, soy, dairy, beef, fish, eggs or grain, the majority of allergy-sufferers will tolerate it well.
A wet food with a pâté texture, this is one of the most palatable options on our list and is sure to be a big hit with even the most pernickety eaters.
While this food is a complete diet, it can be used as a mixer or topper, keeping in mind that any supplementary food should be an equally restricted diet for best results.
Feeding a wet-food only diet can lead to increased tartare and calculus on the teeth, predisposing cats to periodontal disease in later life.
This can be combatted by daily tooth brushing.
A 3.6kg cat will need only one 5.5oz can of this food each day, although this will vary depending on a cat’s age, weight and activity level.
Owners should aim for a lean body condition score of four or five when using the traditional Body Condition Scoring chart that goes from one to nine.
While skin allergies are frequently hard to manage and are rarely cured, providing your beloved pet with the best cat foods for skin allergies available will go a long way towards getting their condition under control.
Owners should be aware that diet is only one facet of treatment and cats with allergic skin disease may be allergic to food and/or other triggers such as pollen, mites and mould.
A skin work-up should be undertaken to determine the root cause of any chronic dermatitis.
As many cats have multiple allergies, it is prudent for affected cats to have regular parasite prevention, a prescription diet and a reduced-allergen environment.
Lifestyle changes such as the use of a hypoallergenic bed, frequent grooming and the removal of certain house plants or cleaning products may help some affected cats.
All of the foods listed above are not only suitable for allergy sufferers but will benefit any cat with irritated skin as they contain nutritionally supportive ingredients such as Vitamin E and Omega three fatty acids.
Maintaining a strong and healthy skin barrier can help to protect cats against every day irritants such as chemicals and bacteria.
A defective skin barrier can result in dry, itchy or oily skin and will only exacerbate any underlying skin disease.