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Does My Pet Have A Food Allergy?

Stories from HART

Does My Pet Have A Food Allergy?

Sarah Myers

Pets can be vulnerable to food allergies just like humans.

 Does your dog constantly have ear infections? Has he been scratching his sides until they’re bald? Does he chew on his paws?

If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, it could be a food allergy. Be sure to note, though, only about 10-15% of allergic reactions are caused by food. The majority of allergies are flea or environmental allergies.

An allergy is defined as the body reacting to certain molecular triggers. Specifically, with most food induced allergies, the immune system mistakes an animal or plant-based protein, the “meat” of the food, for a threat and causes an adverse reaction. A food intolerance does not trigger the immune system, but instead refers to a difficulty to digest certain foods.

Symptoms to watch out for are itchy skin, aggravated ears, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen paws, and changes in fur such as thinning or bald spots. Intolerances will usually only target the digestive system causing vomiting, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If you begin to notice your pet experiencing any or all of these symptoms, please contact us at the Bredel Veterinary Clinic at HART to have your pet assessed. Dr. Jessy will be able to determine if the cause is an environmental allergy, food allergy or a food intolerance.

Keep in mind, a relatively small portion of allergies are food-induced but puppies younger than one year old typically do not have environmental allergies. Also, if your pet’s parent(s) had a food allergy, it is more likely to see allergies in their offspring. Lastly, food allergies can take time to develop so you may not see symptoms immediately. One key to differentiate a food allergy from environmental allergies is symptoms that don’t go away or symptoms that don’t change or get worse with changes in the seasons.

The best way to diagnose a food allergy in pets is to complete a food trial using a prescription elimination diet for the course of 8 to 12 weeks. It is important the diet is limited to only the prescribed diet; don’t let your pet wander too far away from home to prevent eating into other food sources or garbage. And definitely no treats, scraps, or any other type of food. Dr. Jessy will recommend the specific food to trial with your pet.  

If once the trial is over, and there are no reactions, you will begin to reintroduce other foods slowly one-by-one. This is the process to narrow down potential reaction sources. If your pet reacts, you will know what food to eliminate to get your pet back on track.

Other treatments are available to help with your pet’s itching and may vary depending on the signs your pet is displaying. Dr. Jessy will cover all the options after she has diagnosed your pet. 

Having a pet with a food allergy may sound like a challenge, but with a proper diagnosis by Dr. Jessy and patience from you, your family member should be symptom-free in no time.