Food Allergies in Pets

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is basically an abnormal response by the immune system to a non-threatening food item – in the case of most pets the offending allergens are proteins like chicken, beef or soy, however carbohydrates such as corn, wheat and rice may also trigger a reaction.

What are the most common clinical signs of a pet that has Food Allergies?

  1. Generalized Itchiness
  2. Chronic Skin or Ear Infections
  3. Chronic Vomiting or Diarrhea/Loose Stools

How do I know if my pet has a food allergy?

Unfortunately there is no simple test for food allergies. The “gold standard” for diagnosing them involves feeding a strictly home cooked diet for at least 8 weeks (up to 12 weeks). An alternative to home cooking for your pet is purchasing a novel protein diet. Ideally we recommend prescription novel protein diets because additional testing has been done on those diets to make sure there is no cross contamination during processing. >> NOTE: Many home cooked diets are not nutritionally balanced, so please consult a veterinarian before placing your pet on one. <<

My pet has always been on the same diet, how could my pet have a Food Allergy?

Food allergies take time to occur, you pet must be exposed to the offending ‘allergen’ for a period of time before clinical signs of a food allergy will become apparent.

What diet should I switch my pet to if I suspect my pet has a food allergy?

We suggest you speak to your veterinarian about your pet’s current diet in detail before switching your pet’s diet. Usually when looking for a new diet for our patients we want to switch them to one that has an entirely different protein and carbohydrate source than the one they were previously on. For example if we have a patient on Chicken, Fish and Brown Rice, we will move them onto a diet of Venison and Sweet Potato. Switching a pet from Chicken to Turkey or Duck is not ideal, as the proteins are so similar that you can still sometimes see an allergic response.

Why is a prescription diet ideal for a food trial?

According a scientific study published in JVMA (Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association), “about 40 percent of dog and cat foods tested in a recent study (Food Control 2015; 50: 9-17), may have contained meats different from those listed on the product labels.” Another study done by Laura Allred, PhD using ELISA Testing, found that 10 of 21 diets tested had a species that were not declared on the label, or were missing a species declared on the label. Both of these studies are significant when looking at pets with Food Allergies. Having their allergen be present just 1% of the time in a food item can set off the allergies of some of these pets. Prescription diets such as Hill’s d/d, do additional testing via PCR/DNA Electrophoresis to make sure ingredients are actually correct before making the food, and they use separate processing equipment for each of their diets, limiting cross contamination. Most over-the-counter diet lines are produced using the same machinery, making cross contamination between protein sources more likely. Most over-the-counter diets also do not do additional DNA testing on ingredients received from suppliers for example, to make sure they actually received “venison” instead of “beef”. It is done solely on visual and manual inspection of the meats – which can make it more likely for mistakes to occur.

How do I know what protein sources my pet is currently on?

You must read the entire ingredient list on the back of your pet’s food. Also include any treats or human foods your pets receives.

What is allowed and not allowed during  a food trial?

This must be observed by all people in contact with the pet. The only food the pet can receive is the therapeutic diet for the full 8 week period.

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