Just like humans, our pets can experience food allergies. Today, our Perry vets discuss common signs and symptoms of pet food allergies and food treatment options.
Your Pet's Food Allergies
Food allergies or hypersensitivities can lead to unpleasantness for you and your pet. As a pet owner, it's important to understand what possible symptoms can look like and what to do if your pet is suffering from allergies.
Your vet will be able to run allergy tests to detect any allergies your pet may have.
Some common allergies our pets have found in their food can include:
Signs to Watch Out For
Common signs and symptoms that you may notice if your pet has a food allergy may include:
- Dryness of skin
- Redness of skin and ears
- Oily skin and hair coat
- Increased dandruff
- Watery eyes
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Soft stool, diarrhea, vomiting, or gas
- Hair loss
- Self-grooming in dogs
- Hot spots (eczema) on the skin
- Sneezing and/or reverse sneezing
- Repeated skin infection
- Redness of eyes
- Swelling of eyes or face
Most commonly, these signs will appear before the pet's first birthday, but a food allergy can develop at any point in an animal's life.
Diagnosing Pet Food Allergies
Getting a proper diagnosis for food allergies can be a lengthy process and involves an 'elimination' food trial using hypoallergenic pet foods. Your pet should be fed the new food exclusively for at least 8-10 weeks — sometimes longer for breeds like Cocker Spaniels or Labrador Retrievers.
After symptoms improve, you'll need to switch back to the original diet to confirm the diagnosis. If accurate, the original symptoms should reappear within two weeks.
These days, there are many different options on the market, both over-the-counter and from your vet. Here are some of the most popular types of diet foods available:
Grain-Free Pet Food
Just like the name suggests, grain-free foods and treats are ideal if your pet has a sensitivity to corn, wheat, and other grains. These foods are also gluten-free, though be careful — gluten-free pet foods aren't necessarily grain-free.
Limited Ingredient Pet Food
These foods address the presence of allergens by reducing to just one protein source, such as beef, lamb, or chicken. Sometimes, these are also reduced to a single carbohydrate source. If you are shopping for a limited ingredient pet food, you should be looking for a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO), as well as a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Novel Ingredient Pet Food
Novel ingredient pet food eliminates common proteins that can cause your pet's allergies to flare up (beef, chicken, etc.) and replaces them with duck, salmon, or other less-common proteins that are new to your pet's system. Many limited ingredient foods will often use novel carbohydrates, leading to combinations like venison and potato.
Choosing Food for Your Pet
Ultimately, your pet's best diet option is going to be specific to his or her allergy and needs. Your veterinarian is going to be able to correctly diagnose if your pet's symptoms are indeed a result of an allergy and make the best recommendations for your pet's health, including prescription pet food if need be.