Food Elimination Trial for Dietary Sensitivity
Food elimination trials in cats are used when there are skin conditions and/or gastrointestinal conditions that your veterinarian believes may be food related. Some common conditions treated with an elimination diet are skin allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, and vomiting. Diets can help improve your cat’s symptoms and in some cases the signs may resolve completely.
Cats may become sensitive to a component of their current diet, often a protein or carbohydrate in the food. In addition, they can develop sensitivities to food coloring, dyes, or additives to the cat food. Sensitivities typically develop over time, so we usually see this when your cat has been eating the same diet for a while. Switching to a new over the counter diet rarely helps as many ingredients are common to many of the cat foods available.
Elimination diets typically contain proteins and carbohydrates not commonly found in regular over the counter cat foods. Examples of novel protein diets include venison and green pea, rabbit and green pea, duck and green pea, and kangaroo. Elimination diets may also be made from hydrolyzed proteins. Hydrolyzed proteins are common protein sources that are made into smaller molecules. When the protein is hydrolyzed the body cannot recognize it as an allergen. Some examples of hydrolyzed protein diets are Science Diet Prescription Diet z/d, Purina HA, and Royal Canin HP diets. If one diet doesn’t work for your cat, trying a different prescription diet may help. Although some cats experience improvement in a couple of weeks, it can take up to 12 weeks to see the benefits of the new diet. It is best to be patient and give the diet time to work before switching diets.
How to Conduct a Food Elimination Trial
• Your veterinarian will recommend the best diet for your cat. Once the diet is prescribed, your cat must eat this diet exclusively for up to 12 weeks. No other food, treats, and even flavored medications can be given during the food elimination trial.
• Make sure everyone in your house knows that your cat is on a food elimination trail. This will help avoid accidental treats or meals that aren’t part of the plan.
• If your cat needs treats, speak with your veterinarian about appropriate treats during the food elimination trial. Even one small treat that is not in the plan can negate the benefits of the prescribed food.
• If you have multiple cats, it is best to feed them all the prescribed food. If that is not possible, the cats should be fed in separate rooms and the bowls of non-prescription food picked up and washed immediately.
• Do not let your cat lick plates or eat people food (be aware of dirty dished left in sink).
• If your cat is on medication check with your veterinarian that it is ok to give it. Do not hide the medicine in treats or food to administer the medication.
• Flavored medications or supplements may need to be stopped during the initial 12-week plan. Inform your veterinarian of anything you routinely give to your cat.