What is a Food Allergy?
- Allergic reaction or food intolerance – the pet’s immune system responds to a particle in the food causing an inflammatory reaction.
- The exact cause is not completely understood and it is not easy to distinguish between true allergic reactions and food intolerances.
- Similar reactions can occur in people: eg. lactose intolerance, allergies to MSG or other preservatives.
- Food allergies can develop even when a pet has been fed the same diet for a long period of time.
Incidence of Food Reactions?
- Food reactions are responsible for approximately 10-15% of all allergic skin diseases in dogs and cats.
- It is the 3rd most common itchy skin disease in dogs.
- It is the 2nd most common itchy skin disease in cats.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
The symptoms of food allergy are similar to other allergies. Symptoms most commonly include:
- Itchiness – can occur anywhere on the body
- Redness of the skin
- Licking feet
- Ear infections – particularly yeast infections
Less commonly we may see
- vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- excessive gas or flatulence
How do we Diagnose Food Reactions?
- Food elimination trial is the definitive test for food allergies.
- The diet must be restricted to one protein and one carbohydrate source – preferably sources the pet has not eaten before.
- This new food source must be fed exclusively for up to 13 weeks or 3 months.
- We use a commercial dry food that is complete and balanced for food trials. The food is very palatable and most dogs will eat it happily.
Pitfalls with Food Elimination Trials
- Feeding other food: For the food trial to be effective and accurate it is essential that no other foods are given to your pet. The food trial will involve a change of diet and in some cases a change in the feeding routine. This can be one of the hardest things for many pet owners and families to do.
- Not continuing for long enough: The food trial must be continued for at least 13 weeks before we can be sure food allergy is not the problem.
- Outdoor pets: must be prevented from accessing other foods during the food trial. This includes digging up buried bones and hunting pets eating lizards.
- Treats: We do not allow treats to be fed treats during a food trial.