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Many pet owners are looking at the ingredients of their pet’s food – pet parents are now more educated about what they should and shouldn’t be feeding their pets. However, sometimes we end up looking at the label if we suspect one (or more) of the ingredients is causing our pet to have an allergic reaction.
Common symptoms of food allergies:
It’s important to note that food allergy differs from food intolerance. Food intolerance symptoms are usually vomiting, diarrhea and being gassy. A food allergy is an actual allergic response to an ingested food. It’s usually caused by the protein source in the food. Common protein sources that are known to trigger allergic responses in sensitive animals are chicken, beef and even lamb. Another big culprit for food allergies is wheat.
Pets can even develop a food allergy to a food they have eaten over a period of years. Simply switching the brand of food you are feeding your pet may not correctly address the problem. See our blog article on Switching Your Pet’s Food for more information.
How do you get to the root of the problem?
There are no blood tests that can diagnose food allergies. The only way to diagnose food allergies is by an elimination or challenge diet. It’s important to discuss with your vet all the types of food your pet has eaten over the years. During an elimination diet your vet will place your pet on a novel protein diet.
This means your vet will pick a food that has a protein and carbohydrate source your pet has never tried before. Some common novel protein diets are kangaroo and oat, or salmon and sweet potato. We’ve even seen protein sources as varied as yak and alligator. Another option is to go with a food that has a hydrolyzed protein. This means the protein source is treated so it is unlikely to cause an allergic response. A common hydrolyzed protein diet is Hill’s Science Prescription Diet Z/D.
Most experts seem to agree a pet needs to be on the elimination diet for a minimum of 12 weeks to rule out a food allergy. During this time, it is important to feed your pet only the food they have been placed on. If they are still being exposed to potential allergic sources during this time period it will be impossible to know if the novel protein in the food source was successful or not.
Do not feed your pet the following if they are on an elimination diet:
While it is unlikely to prevent foodallergies, especially in breeds that are predisposed, experts feel exposing your pet to a varied diet over their lifetime may decreasethe chances of becoming sensitized to a particular food. It is also recommended that good ‘gut’ health be maintained through the use of probiotics. Research has shown young animals that have a history of gastrointestinal upset are more likely to develop food allergies later in life. Experts also agree that the use of EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) may help decrease the severity of symptoms in animals with food allergies.