Like humans, cats can suffer from eczema, a skin condition causing dry, scaly, red and itchy patches. In severe cases, these patches can lead to oozing blisters. Eventually the skin may also develop a thick, crusty appearance. Fortunately, there are some dietary choices available to help curb your kitty's suffering.
What Is Eczema and How Do I Know My Cat Has It?
Eczema is an immune system reaction causing the body to react to an irritant, contaminant or chemical in food, water or the environment. Altering your cat's diet to incorporate whole, fresh, anti-inflammatory foods can protect his immune system and detoxify his body.
Communicating with your vet can help you work toward diagnosis. Monitoring your cat is key, too. Watch for redness, itching, excess licking or other signs of discomfort. Sometimes eczema is temporary, but other times symptoms persist or reappear.
What Foods to Remove
An ideal cat diet should offer about 80 percent animal protein and 20 percent fat. Carbs are unnecessary, and some carbs like corn and wheat are also known allergens. So choose a food that has little or no carbs, and lots of protein and healthy fats. Other potential allergens in food include artificial preservatives, colors and flavors, along with other chemicals. Many commercial brands use these, so if you are feeding a commercial brand, check the labels.
What Foods to Add
Once you remove some of the known allergens, it's time to replace them with foods that help optimize health, reduce inflammation, and build immunity. You might cook for your cat, or use a commercial food with specific ingredients and no allergens. Omega-3 fights inflammation, so find a good source from a pill or food. Good food sources include salmon and other fish, if they're wild; farm-raised doesn't contain omega-3. Other sources include flax oil and fish oil.
We want the itch to stop immediately, but altering your kitty's diet gradually allows his body to adjust, and gives you a chance to monitor him. Watch for signs of tummy upset including diarrhea, vomiting, gas or lethargy. Also, transitioning slowly lets you see if the new food is helping. Try adding 10 percent new food each week, removing an equal amount of his current food. Soon, he'll be used to his new food and, hopefully, more comfortable.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.