Monday, January 23, 2012

Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

by Kelley Lindberg

Does your pet have a food allergy?
Believe it or not, dogs and cats can have food allergies. My dog-in-law Missy (who owns my brother-in-law and sister-in-law) is allergic to beef – so she has to have a restricted diet. No beef products in her food or snacks, and no rawhide chew toys for her. She also has to be careful of her toothpaste and medications, which sometimes contain beef flavoring. (This is Missy wearing her seatbelt and new bandana...Not just beautiful, but smart, too!)

Food allergies in dogs are more common than I realized. Food allergies are estimated to account for about 20% of cases where dogs suffer from itching and scratching. Most allergies occur after the animal has been eating the same food for a long time, even years. But food allergies are only the third most common reason for itchiness in dogs and cats, after flea bite allergies and airborne allergies, so taking your furry pal to the vet is a must, so that you can begin to identify the most likely culprit.

Food allergies in animals appear to act a little different from food allergies in humans, however. I haven’t found any mentions of anaphylaxis in my research – mainly itching and other skin problems, but symptoms can also include ear infections, hair loss, and hot spots.

Food intolerances are also common in dogs and cats. A food intolerance may cause diarrhea or vomiting, but usually not the itchy skin problems that true food allergies cause.

Animal food allergies don’t appear to respond well to skin prick tests or blood tests. The only recommended test for food allergies in a dog or cat is a food trial, where the dog or cat is fed with a completely new protein and carbohydrate source for 12 weeks, completely eliminating all other foods. (Talk to a vet before starting such a test, because the vet can help determine an appropriate hypoallergenic diet.) After that, former foods are reintroduced one at a time to see if the itchiness returns. If symptoms come back, a food allergy is strongly suspected.

After that, treatment is the same as for humans – complete elimination of the offending food.

If you suspect that your dog or cat is allergic to or intolerant of a particular type of food, here are some resources that might be helpful:


EMR said...

It takes time to understand but sometimes they also suffer from bad allergies...good discussion this.

Cat food said...

The best hypoallergenic diet includes proteins and carbohydrates that your cat has never had before, since most food allergies develop from exposure to certain ingredients. Hypoallergenic cat foods make use of uncommon sources of protein that are not usually incorporated into cat food. Many hypoallergenic cat foods contain rabbit, duck, lamb or venison, as a source of protein, since most cat food formulas contain chicken, beef, eggs or fish.

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Great info! Thanks for helping educate us all in ways to make our beloved pets healthier and happier!