Food allergies and intolerance seem to be a hot topic these days, both in the human- and pet-world. Various buzzwords like grain-free and gluten-free have become part of our daily lives. But what are food allergies, really? And how do we know if our pet has one? Should we really be spending all this money on specialty foods that don’t contain this but do contain that? Well, here is the low-down on food allergies in dogs and cats, straight from the doctors here at Snelgrove Vet Services.
What are food allergies?
Food allergies can range from mild to severe and are identified as an abnormal immune response to certain ingredients found within a food.
What are signs of food allergies?
In both dogs and cats, the most common sign of a food allergy is itching and licking at their skin continuously. An important distinguishing feature of food allergies over seasonal allergies is that food allergies are present year-round, whereas seasonal allergies tend to flare up only at certain times of the year. Another symptom typically seen in dogs with food allergies is frequent ear infections. In some cases, ear infections can be the only sign of a food allergy being present. In other cases, food allergies may present as gastrointestinal upsets (ie. vomiting and/or diarrhea).
What are the most common foods to cause allergies in our pets and how can they be diagnosed?
Cats and dogs most commonly suffer from food allergies to proteins, but other ingredients can also cause a reaction. In dogs, we typically see allergies to beef, chicken, corn, dairy, egg, soy and wheat. Meanwhile cats commonly react to beef, dairy and fish.
While serology testing and skin patch tests are available, the most effective way to diagnose a food allergy in a pet is to conduct a food trial.
What are food trials and how are they helpful?
Essentially, a food trial is a restricted diet for a dog or cat that includes ingredients that the animal has not previously been exposed to. Food trials are a very helpful diagnostic tool for several reasons. Once all ingredients that may be causing a food allergy are eliminated, the animal should begin to feel better as the symptoms associated with the allergy resolve. Additionally, the doctor is also able to determine whether the allergy is specifically food related, or if there are perhaps environmental allergies to consider as well. And finally, once symptoms have resolved and regular foods can begin to be re-introduced, it is much easier to determine which is the offending ingredient.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT IF DURING THE TRIAL, THE PET RECEIVES ANY TREAT, SNACK, RAWHIDES, PIG EARS, HUMAN FOOD, FLAVOURED SUPPLEMENTS, ACCESS TO SCRAPS OR GARBAGE, THIS WILL MEAN THAT THE TRIAL HAS FAILED
This week we have covered food allergies and food trials. Stay tuned for next week’s discussion on types of diets used in food trials and what happens after a food trial has been completed.
As always, we would love to hear from our readers and clients alike. Have you ever had a pet that suffered from food allergies? Have you ever conducted a food trial, and, if so, how did it go?