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Food Allergies in Pets

It’s hard enough to diagnose food allergies in people -- we who can actually talk and pay attention to what we’re eating and drinking. Imagine how much harder it is to diagnose food allergies in a pet!

In the WebMD Pet Health Community, M. Duffy Jones, DVM, explains that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with a possible food allergy in your pet. And there are no perfect, hypoallergenic foods to feed them that will inhibit all possible allergens. Instead, Jones recommends that pet owners:

  1. Observe your pet’s allergic symptoms.
  2. Note any patterns in itching and scratching. Is it improving or getting worse? When does your pet scratch the most?
  3. Pay attention to what kind of foods your pet is eating and any changes you recently made in her diet, including any treats.

If your pet is constantly scratching, and her anti-itch medications don’t provide more than a temporary solution, she may suffer from a food allergy.

If you suspect that your pet has a food allergy, Jones advises you to:

  • Start with a brand-new protein source. For instance, switch from chicken-based foods to fish-based foods, or from fish to beef.
  • As much as possible, lower the amount of grains in your pet’s diet.
  • Strictly maintain your pet's diet for 6-8 weeks -- no variations, no treats, and no bones.
  • Consider the possible flavor additives in non-food products, like those in heartworm medications, for example.

There are also pet foods that are broken down in such a way that your pet’s body cannot recognize the allergens in them that could produce an allergic response.  These are mostly prescription foods. So talk to your vet about these options.

One community member shared how she jumped through so many hoops trying to track down the source of her Yorkie’s allergies. Finally, her vet's food allergy tests revealed the dog's sensitivity to corn, wheat, beef, pork, milk, and soy. Today, her dog is much happier on a kangaroo-and-oat food diet.

Jones reminds pet owners to be patient. Finding the right food for an allergic pet can be a long process.

Has your pet ever shown signs of a possible food allergy? What steps did you take to address it?

Discussion led by M. Duffy Jones, DVM Guest Expert
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