What are the signs that my pet has a food allergy?
In most pets, the signs of food intolerances are often itchy skin, paws, or ears, and vomiting or diarrhea. Although these symptoms can be caused by a multitude of factors like environmental allergies, clinical signs like symptoms seeming to always follow meals consisting of certain ingredients, most likely mean a food allergy is the highest probable cause. Some subtle changes may also occur including hyperactivity, weight loss, lack of energy, and sometimes aggression and frequent mood changes.
Are some ingredients more likely to act as allergens than others?
Yes! Some of the most common food ingredients pets, especially dogs, are allergic to, come from a protein source like dairy, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, and wheat/gluten. Though any food has the potential to produce an allergic reaction, proteins are the most common as the antibodies react with the antigens causing symptoms to occur. Additives and other chemical substances within pet foods can also trigger adverse food reactions, so it is important to always read the label!
How is a food allergy diagnosed?
The best method of diagnosing a food allergy is to feed your pet a hypoallergenic diet (elimination diet) for eight to twelve weeks in order to first clear a food trial of any variables. If your pet’s symptoms resolve while on this trial, the next step is to slowly reintroduce one-by-one the foods your pet previously ate. Once an immune response begins to occur, it will most likely have been caused by the food most recently added into the diet. Blood tests may also be used to indicate whether your pet is allergic to specific foods, though this procedure is more invasive and possibly expensive.
Can food allergies be treated or cured?
Yes, allergies can be treated; once the offending ingredient in the food source has been identified, your veterinarian can provide a special diet for your pet. The treatment plan may vary depending on different food sensitivity factors, but there are generally three main types of hypoallergenic dog foods. Hydrolyzed diets are where the molecules of allergens are broken down so small that your pet’s immune system does not recognize it. Novel protein diets use products that were not found in their previous foods. Similarly, a home-prepared protein diet also omits the ingredients found in your dog’s prior diets. On the other hand, no cure for food allergies in dogs have been discovered. For now, the best treatment is the use of prescribed diet or limited ingredient diets.