Did you know that almost every second dog is thought to have some form of a food allergy? And what’s more is, food intolerances in cats are nearly as common! With these conditions becoming so common, it’s important that a pet with an allergy gets an early diagnosis and proper treatment.
What is a food allergy?
When a pet has a food allergy, their immune system is incorrectly seeing a certain ingredient of their pet food as a threat and attacking it. Allergies in pets are most common in dogs but can occur in cats, too.
How common are food allergies in pets?
As we previously mentioned, experts estimate that almost every second dog has a food allergy. Thankfully, because the condition is so common, today there is plenty of research into which food allergies are most common in pets, why allergies in pets occur, and what can be done about allergies in pets.
Which types of food are pets generally allergic to?
It is most common for dogs to be allergic to animal proteins, such as those found in beef or dairy products. But wheat, vegetable oils and some artificial additives are among the other ingredients that a dog is often allergic to, as well. Fish, rabbit, pork, soy, lamb, chicken, and egg, too, are all further potential canine allergens!
Whereas, when it comes to cats, cow’s milk is a very common known allergen. However, chicken, fish and beef are some of the other typical allergens for a cat. Food allergies aren’t very common in cats, though. Instead, intolerances to ingredients like dairy are more common.
What kind of symptoms should I look out for in my pets?
In both cats and dogs, vomiting, diarrhoea, skin inflammation, water retention, itching and weight loss are the most common symptoms of an allergy.
However, you may also notice mysterious bald patches or cuts on your pet’s skin. In the case of a food allergy, this can be caused by your pet scratching themselves, even if you do not notice them doing it.
Some food allergies in pets can even cause recurring ear infections or respiratory problems! As well as this, a cat may develop furballs from excessive grooming due to allergy-related itchiness.
If your pet is persistently showing any of these symptoms, be sure to take them to your vet as soon as possible for a full check-up and proper diagnosis.
How are food allergies diagnosed in pets?
As you can see, some of the symptoms of a pet’s food allergy are similar to the symptoms that occur with other conditions. So, how does a vet know that your pet has a food allergy rather than something else?
For example, for dogs, weight loss and diarrhoea could also be a symptom of giardiasis or worm infection.
In this case, though, if your pet has had no recent history of drinking from puddles, spending time in a boarding kennel or doing anything else that would make illnesses with similar symptoms plausible, it is more likely that your pet does have a food allergy.
So, if your vet rules out these other similar diseases, they will start your pet on an exclusion diet to try to find out which ingredient your pet is allergic to.
What is the exclusion diet?
When trying to diagnose an allergy in your pet, your vet may put them on an exclusion diet. But what is this? What does this mean?
When your pet is put on an exclusion diet, you must feed them an extremely bland diet only, free of all potential allergens. You can only feed your pet the bland food, without feeding them any extra treats or titbits from the table.
For a cat who has to undergo a hypoallergenic diet trial, they must also be kept indoors during this period, too; your vet and you can’t have them eating any undeclared mice, as they may be what the allergen is!
In an exclusion diet, the proteins of the potentially allergenic ingredients are present in such a little amount that it is almost impossible for them to produce an allergic reaction in your pet.
Luckily, your pet’s exclusion diet will only have to last for a certain period, so don’t worry if your pet is more of a fussy connoisseur type.
If your pet’s initial allergy symptoms were skin problems, they may have to stick to their restricted diet for anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. However, if your pet had gastrointestinal problems, they will only have to bear their bland diet for a much shorter time.
However long this trial period has to be, at the end of it, your vet will check up on your pet’s progress. Your vet will want to know whether your pet’s symptoms have changed, improved, or just stayed the same.
If your pet had no improvement in their symptoms whatsoever, it’s unlikely that your pet had a pet food allergy. If this is the case, your vet will be forced to start thinking about what else could be causing your pet’s symptoms.
However, if your pet’s symptoms have improved by the end of this period, that’s great news! Your vet will explain what will happen next. In general, though, you will probably slowly reintroduce the proteins to their diet, keeping a close eye on how their body reacts.
How should I treat my pet’s food allergy?
If your pet is officially diagnosed with a food allergy, the only way that their allergy can be treated and the negative symptoms can be prevented is to avoid the food or food group they are allergic to.
The best way to do this is to begin feeding your pooch or puss a hypoallergenic pet food that does not contain the ingredient they are allergic to.
What about pet food with hydrolysed protein?
You might have noticed that some pet foods on the market aimed at pets with allergies contain a hydrolysed version of a standard protein. What is this, and is this good for an animal with allergies?
Well, when a protein gets hydrolysed, its molecules have been broken down to such an extent that your pet’s body can no longer recognise them for what they are. Because of this, your pet will be able to eat the food without having the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
However, your pet will still not be able to truly digest a hydrolysed protein and won’t be able to get much nutrition from it. On top of this, hydrolysed protein is unpalatably bitter, so any food containing hydrolysed protein likely also contains artificial flavourings, to entice your pet to eat it.
Therefore, pet food containing alternative ingredients, that your pet can fully digest, is better and more natural.
Which kind of hypoallergenic pet food should I choose?
Fortunately, in today’s market, there is a multitude of appropriate hypoallergenic food. Bellfor, for example, provides a variety of both wet and dry hypoallergenic dog food, for small, medium and large dogs with allergies.
Bellfor’s hypoallergenic food for dogs contains insect protein; specifically, black soldier fly larvae protein. This is because, as we touched upon earlier, allergies to animal proteins are some of the most common allergies dogs have. Insect protein does not trigger these allergies, so it is a good option.
Not only this, black soldier fly larvae protein is a very high-quality protein, with a complex amino acid profile that is easy to digest. As well as this, since the flies do not get sick, you don’t have to worry about the effect of antibiotics, either.