What to Know about Food Allergies in Pets

Hypersensitivity, or a food allergy, is a physical reaction triggered by the immune system due to one particular substance in the food. Like humans, pets including cats and dogs are also affected by food allergies. Typically, dogs develop food allergies due to animal protein including beef, chicken, egg, fish, lamb, pork, and rabbit. Rice, soy, and wheat can also cause food allergies in dogs. On the other hand, preservatives like BHA and BHT, meat by-products, dairy items, corn products, artificial coloring, and seafood are common culprits causing allergies in cats.

Signs and symptoms of food allergies in pets
Itching is the most common sign of food allergy in pets. Incessant itching can further lead to rubbing and scratching which causes hair loss and tenderness of the skin. The following are some other additional signs triggered by food allergies.

  • Diarrhea
  • Skin and ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Paw chewing
  • Swollen paws
  • Discoloration of the nail beds
  • Dull and brittle fur

Apart from food allergies, a lot of these symptoms could be a result of other health conditions, such as bacterial or viral infections. Sometimes, the symptoms could merely be a form of intolerance and not an allergy. For instance, too much fat or fiber in food or spoilt food could trigger gastrointestinal problems. Therefore, it is important that pet owners seek the counsel of their veterinarian right away to identify the root cause.

Treating pet allergies
It is a challenge to identify a food challenge, as none of the diagnostic exams involving the testing of the blood, hair, and saliva can prove to significantly conclusive. At the moment, the only way to accurately detect is food allergy is by trying dietary elimination. There no standard diet that will be suitable for every pet. The vet will recommend one based on the pet’s medical history and its overall health. For instance, if a cat projects signs and symptoms of a food allergy after having cat food containing salmon, then it will completely be barred from their diet for approximately 6 to 8 weeks. During this trial, the vet will only prescribe pet food or home-cooked recipe that only contains a few ingredients such as one form of carbohydrate and one protein along with essentials fats, vitamins, and minerals.

If the pet’s health dramatically improves during this period, then to verify a food allergy, the vet will instruct the pet owner to go back to the previous diet that is suspected to have caused symptoms. If the vet observes a quick relapse then it strongly suggests that an ingredient of the old diet is responsible for triggering a food allergy. If the allergen the food is unspecified then the diet elimination plan has to implemented for a few more weeks until the vet catches the ingredient that caused food allergy.

In the meanwhile to alleviate the symptoms of food allergies in a pet, the vet will prescribe medications such as antihistamines, steroids or antibiotics to treat severe symptoms of itching and inflammation and prevent any possible skin or stomach infections.