Food Allergies on Trial (Part Two)

Food Allergies on Trial (Part Two)

In the first part of this blog posted last week, we defined what food allergies are as well how to diagnose them using a food trial. In the second and final part of this blog, we will discuss the types of specialty diets used in food trials, along with a closer look at the diets available and what to expect once a food trial has been completed.

Novel protein diet vs. hydrolyzed protein diet

The menu of restricted ingredients that are allowed to animals during a food trial is often referred to as a novel protein diet. Novel protein diets usually include ingredients such as rabbit, venison, fish, duck, and/or kangaroo – items that are rarely used in commercial pet foods, thus making it unlikely that your pet has been exposed to them in the past. It is important during a pet’s lifetime not to introduce a huge variety of proteins to their diet, as this will limit the diets with new ingredients that can be tried should they ever require a food trial.

In some cases, the doctor may need to rely on a hydrolyzed diet. These diets use proteins such as chicken or soy, however instead of providing an intact protein, the proteins are broken down into significantly smaller components. These smaller components are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction because the immune system no longer recognizes them as the proteins that it previously had an abnormal response to.

In summary, a novel protein is a food or ingredient the animal has not eaten previously, while a hydrolyzed protein has been broken down into smaller components which reduces the body’s reaction to them.

What diets do we carry for food allergies?

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Here is a selection of some of the foods we carry that are appropriate for animals with food allergies. There are many more available on our Webstore!

Luckily, there is actually an extensive list of veterinary diets available for pets that suffer from food allergies. However, it is best to work with a doctor in order to find the most appropriate choice for a dog or a cat with food allergies as each case is unique. The options listed below are exclusively available for purchase at veterinary clinics only, as opposed to retail brands that can be obtained from pet or grocery stores. Veterinary diets are ideal and highly recommended over retail brands, which can sometimes contain trace amounts of common allergens. Additionally, veterinary brands are backed by extensive clinical trials and research, while retail brands typically are not.

PURINA VETERINARY DIETS

DRM Dermatological Management Diet

HA Hydrolyzed Diet

Treats: Gentle Snackers

HILLS PRESCRIPTION DIETS

Prescription Diet d/d (duck, salmon or venison formulas available)

Prescription Diet z/d

Treats: Hypo-Treats

ROYAL CANIN DIETS

Anallergenic Diet

Hypoallergenic Hydrolyzed Protein Diet

Hypoallergenic Selected Protein Diet

Sensitivity VR Diet

Vegetarian Diet

Treats: Hydrolyzed Protein Treats

RAYNE CLINICAL NUTRITION

Crocodilia MAINT

Kangaroo DIAG & MAINT

Low-Fat Kangaroo MAINT

Rabbit MAINT

How long does a food trial last?

Generally, we recommend to continuously feed the food trial for a total of 12-16 weeks (3-4 months). Although we typically start to see positive results within the first 4-8 weeks, it can take up to 16 weeks to eliminate the remaining allergens from an animals system.

Remember, it is critical that the animal does not get anything else during this time period! Something to think about would be how many foods beyond their regular meals actually cross your pet’s mouth over the course of an average week. Such items as:

  • Treats

  • Rawhide chews

  • Toys

  • Drive-thru treats (pupaccino, anyone?)

  • Goodies from neighbours/service persons

  • Popcorn

  • Licking of cereal bowls, ice cream bowls, plates, etc.

  • Access to other pets food or stools

  • Pilling treats (pill pockets, cheese, etc.)

  • Supplements (glucosamine, omegas, etc.)

  • Chewable medication

  • Table scraps

  • Garbage

The ingestion of any of these example items while on a food trial could result in the trial failing.

Here is an example of some of the items that could be detrimental to a food trial being performed on a pet with suspected food allergies. There are many items that pet owners might not even think about, such as pill pockets, flavoured toothpastes and previously used toothbrushes that could have remnants left between the bristles, flavoured medications/supplements, and/or toys that may have previously been exposed to allergens.

What happens after a food trial?

Once a food trial has been conducted and the animal has responded favourably with a reduction in the clinical signs of food allergies previously exhibited (ie. itching, licking and/or ear/skin infections), we can slowly start to reintroduce regular foods. By adding in ingredients one at a time over a period of weeks, we can determine which ingredients the dog or cat reacts to.

In conclusion…

When managing a pet that has potential allergies, it can feel like a long process. Whether a food trial is in order, or the doctor recommends other testing, the key thing to remember is that we are doing this to help make our pet feel better. Allergies can be a frustrating and (sometimes) expensive condition to get a handle on, but at the end of the day, our pet will feel much better once they are diagnosed and eating the appropriate diet. The future should hold a lot less itching and licking – and, of course, a lot more cuddles as your dog or cat will be feeling infinitely better!

Thank you for reading and we would love to hear about any experiences you have had in managing a pet with food allergies. Please feel free to comment below, or post any pictures you may have.

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Food Allergies on Trial (Part One)

Food Allergies on Trial (Part One)

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.

Woody

This is Woody, a 6 year old Boston Terrier. He has suffered from food allergies since he was 1 year old.

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

In summary…

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.

Woody 2

Luckily for Woody, his family was able to find an appropriate diet to help his allergies – a low fat kangaroo food!

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?

Got the itch???

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Does your dog suffer from itchiness, aka pruritus? Did you know they could be suffering from allergies?

While itching in itself is a normal sensation that exists to provide a stimulus for self-grooming and the removal of parasites and harmful objects or substances from the skin sometimes it doesn’t remove the inciting stimulus that caused the itching in the first place. In this case the itching would be considered abnormal. While there are many reasons for an animal to be itchy the discussion of potential allergies often arises.

So what are allergies?

Allergies are considered an abnormal response of the immune system. In animals with allergies the immune system reacts to a usually harmless substance in the environment, or allergen, as if it were harmful (even though it’s not) usually after often repeated exposure. In the case of dogs there are 3 major types of “allergies” we usually encounter that we will discuss.

  1. Atopic dermatitis (allergic dermatitis, canine atopy) is an inherited predisposition to develop allergic symptoms following repeated exposure allergens such as dust mites or pollen. Most dogs begin to show clinical signs between 1 and 3 years of age. Due to the hereditary nature of the disease some breeds are more commonly affected by this condition than others, however even mixed breeds can present with atopy. Atopic animals will usually rub, lick, chew, bite or scratch at their feet, muzzle, ears, armpits or groin, causing hair loss, and reddening and thickening of the skin. Atopy can be either seasonal or year round.
  2. Food allergy involves reaction to a particular antigen or allergen in the food. Most typically this is the protein source of the food however can be other nutrient sources in the diet. Signs are variable and food allergy dermatitis can present as simple irritated ears and rears however can also be very similar to that of atopy making diagnosis difficult. Clinical signs tend to show no seasonality and are less responsive to medications. Animals are most typically presented as older puppies or young adults.
  3. Flea allergy dermatitis involves development of allergic symptoms in response to the polypeptides found in the flea saliva. The most common age of onset is 10 months to 5 years of age and lesions usually involve papules and crusting. Flea allergy dermatitis symptoms can vary however in general it is extremely itchy and most lesions that the owners note are actually secondary, self-inflicted injuries due to scratching. Animals with atopy are predisposed to the development of flea allergy dermatitis and it is important to note even minimal exposure may be enough to elicit extreme clinical signs in a sensitive animal (i.e. there does not need to be a flea infestation). Signs are more commonly seen in the warmer months with flea season however can be year round if flea control is not achieved.

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In some cases several skin problems can add together to cause an animal to itch where just the allergy alone would not be enough to cause itching. Eliminating some of the problems may allow a patient’s itchiness to go away. Therefore it is important to treat any other problems that could be making your pet itch while dealing with allergy.

The diagnosis of allergies can be frustrating for veterinarian, patient, and owner as clinical signs can be similar for different types of allergies making diagnosis difficult. However, once the type of allergy is determined it can be managed and quality of life improved. It is important to realize that just like in us there is no cure for allergies in our pets.

Dr. Stephanie Gunsinger