Miami Herald (Sunday)

My cat was allergic to something. I did what you would do for someone with a food allergy

- BY SHEAH RARBACK Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritioni­st in private practice in Miami.

After my cat’s visit to her favorite vet Dr. Marmesh last week, I had only one thought: The show is on the other foot. My cat has skin problems, probably due to allergies, and an eliminatio­n diet was recommende­d.

I agree that eliminatio­n diets are the gold standard to identify food allergies and intoleranc­e. I have frequently recommende­d them and have gone on one myself. But a cat?

Dr. Marmesh did what I have frequently done, he gave me a handout with foods to include and exclude as well as how to read labels, and how to introduce new foods. A true food allergy in both cats and humans is almost always an immune response to a protein. Someone can be intolerant to the lactose in milk but will not have an immune response.

The cat food instructio­ns were to give her novel proteins such as ostrich, rabbit, venison and kangaroo. Like so many of my clients, I made a face when given the food list. I was not ready to go on a hunt for kangaroo.

Reading the handout, I saw I could give her a hydrolyzed protein formula. This was comforting, since I have worked with so many clients on hydrolyzed protein. A hydrolyzed formula, for cats and people, is one where the protein is broken down to basic peptides and doesn’t cause an allergic reaction and is easier to digest. But these products — whether for cats or people — are pricey.

The same guidance applies to you or your cat when going on an eliminatio­n diet. Follow the rules and don’t cheat.

Most people can eliminate common allergypro­ducing foods such as dairy, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts, wheat, soybeans and crustacean­s without having to drink a hydrolyzed protein formula. I usually recommend a two- week eliminatio­n diet to determine what foods are troublesom­e.

And if symptoms recede, you slowly add back one food at a time to determine which one was the offender. For guidance on an eliminatio­n diet, I recommend consulting with a registered dietitian nutritioni­st.

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