Do You Suspect Your Pet Has Food Allergies? Let’s Discuss…

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Many pet owners are looking at the ingredients of their pet’s food – pet parents are now more educated about what they should and shouldn’t be feeding their pets. However, sometimes we end up looking at the label if we suspect one (or more) of the ingredients is causing our pet to have an allergic reaction.

Common Symptoms of Food Allergies:

  • Itchy ears
  • Itchy rears (skin around the anus)
  • Chronic recurrent ear infections
  • Recurrent skin infections that seem to initially resolve with antibiotics/steroids and then return when medications are completed
  • Year-round, non-seasonal symptoms
  • Young animal with moderate to severe skin problems

It’s important to note that food allergy differs from food intolerance. Food intolerance symptoms are usually vomiting, diarrhea and being gassy. A food allergy is an actual allergic response to an ingested food. It’s usually caused by the protein source in the food. Common protein sources that are known to trigger allergic responses in sensitive animals are chicken, beef and even lamb. Another big culprit for food allergies is wheat.

Pets can even develop a food allergy to a food they have eaten over a period of years. Simply switching the brand of food you are feeding your pet may not correctly address the problem. 

How do You Get to the Root of the Problem?

There are no blood tests that can diagnose food allergies. The only way to diagnose food allergies is by an elimination or challenge diet. It’s important to discuss with your vet all the types of food your pet has eaten over the years. During an elimination diet your vet will place your pet on a novel protein diet.

This means your vet will pick a food that has a protein and carbohydrate source your pet has never tried before. Some common novel protein diets are kangaroo and oat, or salmon and sweet potato. We’ve even seen protein sources as varied as yak and alligator. Another option is to go with a food that has a hydrolyzed protein. This means the protein source is treated so it is unlikely to cause an allergic response. A common hydrolyzed protein diet is Hill’s Science Prescription Diet Z/D.

Most experts seem to agree a pet needs to be on the elimination diet for a minimum of 12 weeks to rule out a food allergy. During this time, it is important to feed your pet only the food they have been placed on. If they are still being exposed to potential allergic sources during this time period it will be impossible to know if the novel protein in the food source was successful or not.

Do not Feed your Pet the Following if they Are on an Elimination Diet:

  • Treats
  • Table Scraps
  • Rawhides
  • Pig Ears
  • Cow Hooves
  • Antlers Bully Sticks

While it is unlikely to prevent foodallergies, especially in breeds that are predisposed, experts feel exposing your pet to a varied diet over their lifetime may decreasethe chances of becoming sensitized to a particular food. It is also recommended that good ‘gut’ health be maintained through the use of probiotics. Research has shown young animals that have a history of gastrointestinal upset are more likely to develop food allergies later in life. Experts also agree that the use of EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) may help decrease the severity of symptoms in animals with food allergies.

Worried about protecting your pets?  Consider taking out a pet health insurance policy!

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.