Food allergy diagnoses in pets are on the rise. The data isn’t always cut-and-dried but it’s a topic vet researchers have been studying for years. With all the noise and hype surrounding canine and feline food allergies, what can you believe?
Let’s talk about the signs your pet may have a food allergy.
Skin issues are perhaps the number one reason pet owners suspect an allergy to food. And it’s true: food reactions can cause a host of skin problems such as inflammation, dandruff, and itchiness.
Remember that food allergies are different from food intolerances. Intolerances are due to digestive issues; allergies occur when a pet’s immune system actually attacks an “invading” protein. Pay particular attention to skin inflammation between your pet’s toes and underneath their tail as these spots tend to flare up first.
It’s important to note right off the bat that any kind of GI response to food such as vomiting or chronic diarrhea is more likely a food intolerance than an allergy. Food intolerances should be taken seriously as they can become worse over time.
Dull or Flaky Coat
Your pet’s coat is a pretty good indicator of health. Healthy coats are shiny and full. Patches, dry spots, and/or dullness can indicate your pet’s food isn’t doing a good enough job of nourishing their body. Remember that some fur issues can actually be due to more serious afflictions such as thyroid disease or joint weakness, so it’s important to consult with your vet before making a dietary change.
Recurrent Ear Infections
Does your pet need treatment for ear infections more than two or three times a year? If so, it may be a food allergy. (Be warned that ear mites and “swimmer’s ear” can also cause chronic infections.) The skin inside your dog’s ear is prone to inflammation and when it’s constantly inflamed, yeast and bacteria get trapped. This, in turn, causes ear infections that keep coming back and are resistant to treatment.
Diagnosing Pet Food Allergies
If you suspect your pet has a food allergy, talk to your vet. It’s important to rule out any other health issues that could be behind the symptoms you’re seeing – and there are many!
Your vet will likely recommend your pet go on an elimination diet. This means eliminating one or two ingredients at a time from their food until the culprit is identified. It can also be helpful to put your pet on a novel diet – totally new grain/protein sources – to keep their body from triggering an immune response. Don’t forget that any treats, cookies, or table scrape are off limits during this time!
The ingredients most commonly linked with allergy reactions in pets include beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish.
Worried your pet might have a food allergy?