Food Allergies are a real thing and often overlooked and under treated…
What are the signs of a food allergy in dogs and cats?
- In people food allergy commonly is associated with gastrointestinal upset. This is uncommon in our pets and only about 10-15% will have GI signs with an allergy
- GI signs: Frequent bowel movements (greater than 2 per day), intermittent soft stools, vomiting
- Pets manifest food allergy irritation on their skin through itch, inflammation and chronic infections. The saying “ears and rears” is a moniker for where skin problems can be recurrent in food allergic patients such as chronic ear infections or redness around the rectum
But my dog has been on the same diet for years!
- Commonly this is the response from owners when I discuss a food allergy being an underlying reason for repeated infections. My response to this- Food allergy takes time to develop. You may think of someone that as a child could eat strawberries and now as an adult cannot be near them. Allergies develop from chronic exposure to an irritant. It takes a minimum of 2-3 months of continued exposure and more commonly years to develop a fulminate allergy.
How is food Allergy treated?
- Change in diet is definitely in order, but to confirm a strict food trial for a period of 2-3 months is necessary. This diet is often a prescription diet that has strict quality control so there is no cross contamination of other ingredients unlike over the counter diets which are often made on the safe line and can contain a mixture of different proteins.
- Very strict on trial with no outside treats or flavored heartworm and flea preventions.
- Two options are a novel protein diet- which is a new protein source the dog has never seen like kangaroo or rabbit. A thorough diet history is important in determining what is novel for each patient.
- The second option is a hydrolyzed protein diet where the protein is broken down into smaller components to trick the immune system into not recognizing the protein. Some dogs immune systems though will still pick up on this trick however and not respond.
I hope this helps and I am always here for your questions… Hoping for less itchy pets in the future!! – Dr. Rachel McNair