Food Allergies

You probably know someone with a food allergy. Food allergies in people are not uncommon. Reactions can vary from mild to life-threatening, and can affect us in many different ways. Dogs and cats are susceptible to food allergies too. Signs of a food allergy in your pet may include scratching, licking, chewing, hair loss, and skin and ear infections. your food allergic pet may also suffer from chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. Food allergies can develop at any time in a pet's life.

An individual can be allergic to any ingredient. It may be a protein source such as chicken or beef, a carbohydrate source such as wheat, or an additive such as food coloring or a preservative. Most commercial products contain similar ingredients, and often more than one protein and carbohydrate source. This is why it is not beneficial to simply change the brand of pet food. Even the most wholesome pet food composed of natural or premium ingredients can cause allergies. Therefore, to diagnose a food allergy, we must find a diet containing a limited number of pure ingredients, and ones not used in commercial diets. 

To rule out a food allergy, we generally recommend a special diet for an extended period of time, about 3 months. During the trial period, a specifically formulated product is fed exclusively. All treats, table food, and flavored medications are eliminated. Initially, we don't know what is causing the pet's allergy, and we want to ensure there is no possibility of exposure to the problem ingredient.

If your pet gets better during the trial period, we then attempt to identify the ingredient causing the allergy. We add a different ingredient every two weeks, and monitor for the recurrence of the problem. For example, we would add chicken daily for the first two weeks, then beef, etc. until we identify the source of the allergy. You would then select a pet food that does not contain the ingredient.

It is often difficult to adhere to the strict diet during a food trial. One of the most rewarding ways to show our pets we love them is with food. Sometimes it is difficult to monitor everything a pet eats. Dogs learn quickly that the floor under the highchair of the 2-year-old is the place to be during meals! There is always a family member that likes to share a snack with the dog or cat. There are many challenges to a successful food trial, but it may be worth it for a healthier pet!

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