Food Allergies: What They Are & What They’re Not
Just like humans, pets can become allergic to certain foods and develop an allergy to them, even if they’ve been on the same diet for years.
Exactly why an allergy develops is uncertain but genetic predisposition is a factor and they can develop and worsen over time.
Studies have shown that feeding your dog or cat a single food for years may increase their potential to develop an intolerance or allergy. Despite this, there still is no evidence to prove that rotating diets can prevent food allergies. As of now, food allergies can’t be prevented or cured but they can be managed.
Allergies, Intolerances, Adverse Food Reactions: What’s the Difference?
A food allergy could be the cause of your pet’s itchy skin, ear infection, or upset bowels but it could more than likely be another cause.
It is important to understand the difference between a true allergy and other kinds of food sensitivities or intolerances. A food allergy is an immune response that occurs when an animal’s immune system mistakes a protein from food as “an invader rather than a food item,” according to Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. When an animal has difficulty digesting a certain ingredient or nutrient, this is known as an intolerance or food sensitivity.
Common Allergens & Triggers
Some pet food companies promote their products as being “allergen-free.” Even more popular is the claim that grain-free diets are healthier or more beneficial for pets with allergies. Contrary to these claims, grains happen to be an uncommon cause of food allergies — When pets are allergic to food, they are most commonly allergic to animal proteins!
Most of the food-related allergies and sensitivities seen in dogs are caused by beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and ﬁsh. In cats, the foods most commonly associated with food allergies include beef, fish, chicken, and dairy products.
It’s important to note that most pets do just fine eating foods that contain the ingredients listed above. With that being said, if your pet eats food containing these ingredients and doesn’t have any signs of allergies, then there’s no need to switch them to different food.
How do you know if your pet might have a food allergy?
Some pets may present symptoms of an allergic reaction such as itchy skin, ear infections, vomiting, or diarrhea. These could also be signs of intolerance, virus, parasitic infection, or other illness.
Common food allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy skin or paws
- Red eyes or eye discharge
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
In cats, a classic sign of food allergy is dry, itchy skin (dermatitis) around the head, neck and ears. In dogs, allergic dermatitis tends to affect their ears, rear ends, stomachs, and paws.
Even if you are unsure if they’re having a true allergic reaction, pets should receive prompt veterinary care as soon as signs appear as your vet may be able to treat the issue or alleviate any discomfort.
How to Manage Your Pet’s Food Allergy
Allergies can be managed by avoiding foods that trigger flare-ups, like rashes and stomach upset. If you suspect your pet is suffering from a food allergy, talk to your vet straight away about how to identify the allergy so that you can remove it from their diet.
One of the best methods used for diagnosing food allergies in pets is an elimination diet, which involves only feeding them certain foods with limited ingredients and slowly reintroducing other foods over time.
Find out if your pet’s breed is more susceptible to allergies and talk to your vet about the best diet they recommended for your pet.