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Vet Tech Rounds: Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Vet Talks 5 min read
Food allergies in dogs and cats are common. While many pet parents think that it's the grains or starch components, it is often the protein component of the diet is the allergen.

Food allergies are on the increase, and not just in humans! Sadly some of our furkids may experience discomfort from certain types of food. There is no simple test to diagnose a food allergy, and it can be a long process of elimination. Sometimes the way forward involves a lot of back and forth.

An allergen is a substance that is usually harmless, but in certain animals, it can cause an over-reaction of the immune system. Certain molecules within an allergen trigger the body to release a histamine response to combat the ‘invader’. This histamine release triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body that we see on the outside as allergy symptoms.

Protein sources are often the cause of allergies.

cooking for pets - why raw food is not suitable for your pet

Food allergies in dogs and cats are common. While many pet parents think that their pets may be sensitive to grains or other carbohydrate or starch components of their diet, it is actually usually the protein source that causes allergies. It is very rare for a pet to be allergic to a particular grain or starch. In fact, chicken and beef are two of the most common food allergens for pets.

Signs of Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Food allergies in dogs and cats most often cause troubles with the skin, particularly on the face, rear end, and paws. Symptoms related to the skin that may be seen with food allergies are:

  • Itching
  • Licking/chewing
  • Redness
  • Dry & flaky skin
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Change of skin pigment
  • Strong odor on the skin

Diagnosis and Methods to help Pets cope with Food Allergies

If you suspect your pet may be allergic to a dietary component, it’s important to consult your vet. They can help you work through the steps necessary to find out what the allergen is and the best way to treat the symptoms.

Food Trial

The first step is often a food trial. For a food trial, your pet’s diet will be changed to one with a ‘novel protein’. Pets tend to be allergic to more commonly used proteins, such as chicken and beef. A novel protein is one that is not as common such as kangaroo, rabbit, or venison. This change in diet must be followed strictly for at least 8 weeks. No treats or other foods at all should be given, as this can cause a flare-up and negate the results of the food trial. As you can tell, this process can be a bit frustrating for both the pet and the pet parent.

If a food trial is unable to pinpoint the allergen, a veterinary dermatologist can perform a specialized allergy test. The only reliable allergy testing is done either as a blood test or as a dermal test (testing directly on the skin) by a veterinarian.

Once an allergen is pinpointed, it is important to avoid all access to that protein for your pet. This can sometimes be tough if you have a very social pet. Friends and visitors may be tempted to offer your pet a treat, but it’s important to ask them to refrain. Even a very small piece of food that your pet is allergic to can trigger a flare-up that can take weeks to get back under control.

Sophie with her food and supplements

Home-Cooked Diets

Home-cooked meals can also help to eliminate any possibility of allergen contamination in the diet. Here at NHV, our resident Veterinarian Dr. Amanda can formulate a home-cooked nutrition plan for your pet, keeping their specific dietary needs in mind. The diet plan that she provides includes 3 different recipes with many different component options, allowing multiple choices for you and your pet! Each pet plan is carefully put together, with age, breed, and health conditions a top priority. Many parents enjoy cooking for their pets, and all of Dr. Amanda’s recipes can be batch made and frozen for ultimate convenience.

Natural Supplements to Support Your Pet’s Immune System

NHV's Chaya has a chicken allergy - Stimmune helps to reduce her symptoms when she has flare ups!

NHV’s Chaya has a chicken allergy – Stimmune helps to reduce her symptoms when she has flare-ups!

NHV Stimmune is formulated to help balance the body’s immune system and histamine response. This helps to decrease the symptoms we see such as itching and redness or inflammation. Stimmune helps the immune system to fight the substances which are a real threat to the body, rather than harmless substances like allergens.

Skin breakouts with food allergies can occur as lesions around the belly or throughout the body. These can also be concentrated on the mouth and the paws. Ouch Away Spray is a good choice to help topically soothe inflammation caused by allergies. The formula not only heals and helps to repair the skin, but it also promotes the regrowth of hair.

Ear infections are very common in pets with food allergies. NHV Echo Gold helps keep the ears clean and helps reduce symptoms of infections like redness, itchiness, pain, and discharge.

What To Do While You Figure Things Out

Sometimes veterinarians will recommend a hypoallergenic diet. You could opt for a good quality commercial diet or a home-cooked one that is prepared by a veterinarian. And couple it with NHV Stimmune. The NHV Stimmune will help settle any allergic flare-ups while you figure out the road ahead.

Keep a close eye for any symptoms and stick to the same hypoallergenic proteins for treats as well. If you feel that the food allergies are causing a lack of proper nutrition then NHV Multi Essentials is a great herbal multivitamin. Keeping your pet active and healthy overall, is a great way of building their immune system.

stimmune for cats

If your pet is suffering from allergies, contact our pet experts. We’d be happy to help choose the supplements that are right for your furry friend and help make life for you both, just that little bit easier!

Food allergies are on the increase, and not just in humans! Sadly some of our furkids may experience discomfort from certain types of food. There is no simple test to diagnose a food allergy, and it can be a long process of elimination. Sometimes the way forward involves a lot of back and forth.

Vet Tech Rounds: Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Johanna RVT

Johanna RVT

Johanna is NHV’s in house Registered Veterinary Technician. Technicians are the veterinary equivalent of a human nurse. Johanna has over 10 years of experience in different types of veterinary clinics and hospitals. She has seen and assisted in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and injuries. She will share her experiences in her monthly blog series “Vet Tech Rounds” to help our extended NHV family learn about common preventable medical cases and other interesting stories of vet clinic life.

Published: September 27, 2019

2 replies

  1. Cindy says:

    Hi, my cat has been scratching and over-grooming himself for the past 12 months. We have sought advice from a few vet and finally, an allergy test was taken.
    He is allergic to potato, rice, wheat, soybean, beef, oatmeal, flax seed and venison.
    We are trying to remove some of these allergens now but is there anything in NHV which we can try?

    Thanks

    1. Team NHV says:

      Hi Cindy,
      Owww, we’re so sorry to hear about his discomfort. We can imagine how uncomfortable it can be for him. We have Stimmune that may help to manage his allergy symptoms by balancing his histamine response and support his immune health. We also recommend getting him on a hypoallergenic diet, which are usually free of general food allergens, preservatives, and additives.

      Our in-house vet, Dr. Amanda, can also customize a meal plan for him that takes into consideration of his health history and favorite food. Here’s more info on what the customized nutrition plan entails:
      https://www.nhvnaturalpetproducts.com/personalized-veterinary-nutrition-plan-for-pets/

      Let us know how else we can be there to help support your kitty. Sending lots of love and healing vibes to your sweet boy.

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