Can Your Dog or Cat Have Food Allergies?
27 July, 2014

Just as in humans, dogs and cats can have certain allergies to a specific type of food.  In fact, food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs and cats. It is the third most common cause after flea bite allergies. Food allergies affect both males and females and can show up as early as five months and as late as twelve years of age.  Food allergies in dogs and cats can be cured with a little time, effort and change in diet.

The difference between food allergies and intolerance to food

There is a difference between food allergies and food intolerance. Food allergies are true allergies and show the characteristic symptoms of allergies such as itching and skin problems associated with canine and feline allergies. Food intolerances can result in diarrhea or vomiting and do not create a typical allergic response. Food intolerances in cats or dogs would be similar to people who get an upset stomach from eating spicy foods or sometimes dairy. Fortunately, both food intolerances and allergies can be eliminated with a diet free from whatever food it is that is causing the allergy.

The most common food that causes allergies

Several studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause food allergies than others. The most common food that causes allergies in dogs and cats are beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. Unfortunately, the most common offenders are the most common ingredients in dog and cat food. While some proteins might be slightly more allergy inducing than others, many proteins are similar and therefore the allergic reactions are associated with the amount of each in the food.


Symptoms of food allergies in cats and dogs

The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most allergies seen in dogs and cats. The most common symptom is itchy skin affecting primarily the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits and the area around the anus. Symptoms may also include chronic ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued.  It is sometimes difficult to distinguish food allergies from the more common allergies. One sign is if the allergies last all year round, it is probably a food allergy.

Diagnosis for food allergies in cats and dogs

The diagnosis for food allergies is very straightforward. But due to the fact that many other problems can cause similar symptoms and that many times animals are suffering from more problems than just food allergies, it is very important that all other problems are properly identified and treated prior to undergoing diagnosis for food allergies.  Your vet can determine if your dog or cat is just have a normal skin allergy.

Try to feed your dog or cat a new source of protein

A way to get rid of a food allergy is to feed your dog or cat a new food source of protein and carbohydrate for at least twelve weeks i.e. a protein and carbohydrate that your dog or cat has never eaten before. Examples would include be rabbit and rice, or venison and potato. There are a number of such commercial diets available on the market. In addition, there are specialized diets that have the proteins and carbohydrates broken down into such small sizes that they no longer would trigger an allergic response. Regardless of the diet route you choose, the particular food needs to be the only thing that your dog or cat eats for 12 weeks. This means no treats, no flavored medications, no rawhide, cat nip, only the special food and water.

Treatment for food allergies in dogs and cats

The treatment for food allergies is avoidance. Once you have been identified the offending food through a food trial, then they can be eliminated from the diet. Short-term relief may be gained with fatty acids, antihistamines, and steroids, but elimination of the products from the diet is the only long-term solution. .

If you choose to feed your dog or cat a homemade diet, then you can periodically change the ingredients off your food and determine which ingredients are causing the food allergy. For example, if your dog or cat’s symptoms subsided on a diet of rabbit and potatoes, then you can add beef to the diet for two weeks.

If your dog or cat still showed no symptoms, then you can add chicken for two weeks. If your beloved dog or cat now has symptoms, then chicken is clearly one of the things your dog or cat was allergic to. The chicken could be withdrawn and after the symptoms cleared up, a different ingredient could be added and so on until all of the offending ingredients were identified. A diet could then be formulated that was free of the offending food sources.

You can also you the same principal with very pure pet foods that are on the market and are chicken or beef based, and then add or switch accordingly.

As with all diets, make sure to check with your veterinarian to make sure that they agree with your basic diet and that all other allergies have been ruled out.


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