Just like humans, Pets can have sensitivities to certain types of food. Because these precious companions can’t talk, symptoms of allergies manifest in different ways. Food allergies in dogs and cats can develop in Pets as young as five months or those as old as 12 years. Moreover, Pets might be allergic to more than one type of food. By knowing the signs of food allergies in cats and dogs, you can take steps to help your Pet heal and regain its health.
Common Signs of Pet Food Allergies and Intolerances
Food allergies in cats and dogs generally manifest themselves as skin and ear problems. Intolerances often tend to present as gastronomic problems, such as diarrhea or vomiting. Thankfully, you can eliminate the symptoms of both ailments with a diet that’s free of the offending ingredients. You should also be aware that, like in people, inhaled allergens from the environment are the most likely cause of allergies in Pets – much more common than food allergies.
Food allergy symptoms in Pets include:
• Itchy skin, primarily on the forelegs, armpits, paws, ears, face or anal area
• Hair loss
• Excessive scratching
• Hot spots or inflamed, red skin
• Recurring skin infections
Common Foods that May Trigger Allergy Symptoms in Pets
• Or virtually anything else but water!
How to Determine Which Food Your Pet is Allergic To
If you suspect that your Pet suffers from a food allergy or intolerance, you can figure out the source of the problem with an elimination diet and food trial for at least 12 weeks. This diet involves feeding your Pet a novel source of carbohydrate and protein, and slowly reintroducing other ingredients. Novel ingredients are those that a Pet has never consumed. The carbohydrate can be ingredients like oats, rice or potato; only use one when starting. The meat can be organic chicken, venison, turkey or bison – anything that your Pet hasn’t eaten. A vet can give you some ideas about novel ingredients to use. Some manufacturers sell Pet food specifically designed for elimination diets. If your Pet’s symptoms continue after 6 weeks after starting the elimination diet, you may need to change the type of novel protein or carbohydrate it eats. You must feed only the new diet, if you weaken after 6 weeks and feed a snack, you may need to start the whole trial over.
Whether you choose to prepare food for your Pet or purchase pre-made food, your Pet may only consume the novel ingredients during the trial. The following are off-limits:
• Treats, even when giving medication
• Flavored toys
• Flavored toothpaste
• Pig ears
• Flavored medications
• Table scraps
• Nuts, chips, cookies, ice cream, etc.
If your Pet’s health improves after 12 weeks, reintroduce ingredients found in its regular food one at a time. For example, include eggs for a couple weeks. If your Pet responds well, add corn. If your Pet develops allergy symptoms after introducing a new ingredient, you’ll know that it is an ingredient to avoid in the future.
After discovering that a certain ingredient triggers allergy symptoms in your Pet, the food trial is not over (unless the respective ingredient was the last one on your list). Eliminate the offending food and allow your Pet to recover by feeding it safe foods. Then introduce another new ingredient.
Treating Pets with Food Allergies and Intolerances
The best way to care for a Pet with a food allergy or intolerance is to avoid feeding it ingredients that trigger symptoms. If your dog is allergic to wheat, for instance, don’t give it food or treats with wheat in it.
A handful of Pet food manufacturers create food designed for Pets with sensitivities. You can find these at veterinary clinics, Pet stores and some supermarkets. Some companies even make tailored food based on your Pet’s specific needs. If you decide to feed your animal companion commercial Pet food, introduce it into the diet slowly, as quick dietary changes can cause an upset stomach. To do this, add a bit of the Pet food to the food it currently eats. Slowly incorporate more of the new food and less of the previous type of food.
You can also make homemade food for your Pet, as well. If you chose to do this, talk to a veterinarian. Cats and dogs have nutritional requirements that differ from those of humans. The vet might recommend that you give your Pet a supplement in addition to the homemade food to ensure it receives all the nutrients it needs.
When you find ingredients that your Pet responds to well, a vet might recommend that you continue to feed your Pet the new food until it develops allergies to the new diet. The problem with this approach is that you might run out of novel protein and carbohydrate options. Instead, rotate the ingredients that you feed your Pet every few months to avoid further allergic reactions.
If you tried an elimination and trial food diet, but your Pet still suffers allergy symptoms, it might have a different ailment or be allergic to something in the environment. For this reason, it is important to schedule an appointment with a vet when you suspect your Pet has a food allergy or intolerance.
Helping a Pet with food allergies heal and regain its health takes time, dedication, and some trial and error. You efforts, however, will reward you with a beautiful Pet whose meals make it strong and healthy.