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Cutaneous adverse food reactions in cats: retrospective evaluation of 17 cases in a dermatology referral population (2001–2011)




To better characterise cutaneous adverse food reactions (AFR) in cats, including the diagnostic challenges.


Retrospective evaluation of cases presenting to a dermatology referral service.


Cats were identified by a computerised medical record search. AFR was confirmed by clear deterioration on normal food re-challenge after completing an elimination diet, followed by improvement returning to the test diet. Prevalence, and breed, sex or age predispositions were compared with the base referral population. Patient records were reviewed for historical features, clinical presentations, concurrent dermatoses and dietary details.


A total of 17 cats were identified with cutaneous AFR, with no breed or sex predisposition determined. Age of onset ranged from 3 months to 9 years, with a mean of 3.5 years. Prevalence was 6% of dermatoses and 10% of cutaneous hypersensitivities in the referral cat population. Cats typically presented with severe, perennial, non-seasonally flaring pruritus affecting the face/head, neck and/or ventral abdomen. Concurrent hypersensitivities were confirmed in 6 cats and/or suspected in another 5 cats. Home-prepared elimination diets were completed by 16 cats; 8 cats had initial poor response to minimum 6-week commercial hydrolysed protein diets. Identified adverse foods included fish in 2 cats, and chicken, beef, commercial dry, and some canned foods, each in 1 cat.


The prevalence of cutaneous AFR in the general cat population is likely to be greater than 6%. A range of clinical presentations occur and practical challenges to diagnosis include reliance on strict adherence to dietary exclusion/provocation trials and misleading responses related to concurrent dermatoses and owner perceptions.

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