While food allergies are uncommon in pets, when they do strike the symptoms can be stressful for owners and their pets. Here, our Fountain Valley vets discuss food allergies in pets and how you can find find the right food for them.
Food Allergies in Pets
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from food allergies or sensitivity to an ingredient in its usual food, it's important to know what the most common symptoms of food allergies are, and what you should do if your pet is diagnosed with a food allergy.
Signs & Symptoms of Food Allergies in Pets
Food allergies in pets often begin to appear as the pet reaches their first birthday, although allergies and sensitivities can develop at any age.
The most common signs and symptoms of food allergies in pets include:
- Red irritated skin
- Rashes on the ears and feet
Common Causes of Food Allergies in Pets
Proteins from animal or plant-based ingredients in the diet are most often the cause of pet allergies. Typically, beef, dairy, corn, and wheat are the most problematic foods for pets. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it can take a fairly long time for the symptoms of food allergies to appear. It is not unusual for a pet to be allergic to a food that they have been eating for many months.
Diagnosing Your Pets Food Allergies
The only real way to diagnose food allergies in pets is through an elimination diet.
If your vet suspects that your pet is suffering from a food allergy, specially formulated hypoallergenic pet food will be prescribed for your pet. For a minimum of 8-10 weeks, you will only feed your pet the prescribed food to gauge whether the change in diet helps to alleviate your pet's symptoms.
Only hypoallergenic food must be given to your pet while they are on the elimination diet. (Unfortunately, that means no sneaking in the odd treat). This special 10-week diet will allow your pet's body to adjust to the food and allow your vet to assess your pet's overall health.
If your pet's symptoms clear up while on the elimination diet, your vet may request that you return to feeding your pet their original diet. If original symptoms return then your vet can be confident that your pet has a food allergy.
Best Foods for Pets with Allergies
Following the diagnosis, your vet will work with you to determine the best diet for your pet. Several food options are available to help alleviate your pet's allergy symptoms.
Prescription Pet Food
If your pet's food allergy symptoms are severe, your veterinarian may advise you to feed him prescription pet food. While this option can be costly, novel protein and hydrolyzed diets available only by prescription are usually superior to those available over the counter.
Grain-Free Pet Food
If your pet has a sensitivity to corn, wheat, and other grains then grain-free pet food may be ideal. These foods have the added benefit of also being gluten-free.
Limited Ingredient Pet Foods
Limited-ingredient pet foods address the presence of allergens by including just one protein source, (such as beef, lamb, or chicken), often combined with just a single carbohydrate source. When shopping for limited-ingredient pet foods it's important to check for a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO), as well as a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Novel Ingredient Pet Food
Novel pet food ingredients replace traditional pet food proteins like beef and chicken with more unusual proteins like salmon, duck, or venison. To help balance the diet, many novel ingredients in pet foods use unusual carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes.