Does your dog suffer from chronic ear infections? Or maybe your cat has been scratching behind his ears for a while leaving scabs and patches of hair loss? Or, has your dog been vomiting for what seems like a year?
Did you know that your dog and cat could be allergic to the food you are feeding them? Many dogs and some cats can become allergic to the food they have been eating whether it has been a new food or a food they have been eating for years. Typically, they are allergic to the main protein sources in their food such as chicken or beef. Although, they could be allergic to the starches/carbohydrates in their diet, as well.
Signs of food allergies can manifest in several ways. Dogs and cats can have chronic dermatological signs such as ear infections and skin infections associated with itching. They can also develop inflammatory bowel disease and present with vomiting and/ or diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements. Food reactions can be differentiated from seasonal allergies in that they are always year round signs.
Approximately 5% of all skin diseases and 15% of allergic skin diseases in dogs and cats can be attributed to food allergies. Once the offending food has been ingested, sensitization can occur within the lining of the GI tract. This can then affect the gut (vomiting /diarrhea) or spread to the skin (causing itching).
As always, we need to make sure there are not any other disease processes occurring that could be causing these non seasonal signs. Examples are fleas and flea bite hypersensitivity, seasonal environmental allergens, drug reactions, and external parasites (such as the scabies mite).
The definitive diagnosis for a food allergy is to feed a food elimination diet. This means the diet needs to be restricted to a single protein and a single carbohydrate to which the animal has never been exposed (ingested).
In other words, your pet cannot be fed anything else. This means treats, chewable toys, vitamins, flavored chewable medication cannot be fed. All family members must be aware of the test protocol and keep the diet clean and free of ANY other food sources. If you have toddlers in your home throwing food on the floor, a food elimination diet trial may not work for you.
Also, it is important to note that it can take 8-12 weeks for improvement of the symptoms.
There are several prescription diets and some over the counter diets that we can recommend at Eagle Animal Hospital. Examples of the ingredients in some diets are venison and green pea, kangaroo and oat, or fish and potato.
If you have any questions or think your pet may be a candidate for a food elimination diet trial, please contact us at Eagle Animal Hospital 610-458-8789. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.
Written by Jennifer Granite, VMD