Pets bring great joy to your life, and you are dedicated to doing what it takes to keep them healthy. When you keep up with your pet's preventative exams and grooming sessions, it can be alarming to discover them displaying unusual symptoms such as scratching or obsessively licking their skin.
A food allergy is often a surprising diagnosis for pet owners who may have been feeding their favorite animal the same diet for years. However, pets often develop a food sensitivity that gradually increases in severity until the symptoms become serious enough that they manifest in noticeable ways.
If left untreated, a food allergy can become severe enough to impact your pet's long-term health. Use this guide to understand more about food allergies and pets so that you can work with their veterinarian to find the right treatment strategy.
Know the Signs of a Food Allergy
After getting to know your pet, it gets easier to tell when something is wrong. You may notice changes in your pet's behavior such as listlessness or a lack of energy. Alternatively, you may notice them turn down their food, which is a sign of nausea.
Your pet's food allergy may manifest as gastrointestinal distress such as flatulence or diarrhea. Alternatively, some pets get frequent ear infections that do not seem to respond to the usual home care strategies such as keeping the ears dry.
Rule Out Other Conditions
When you schedule an exam for a possible food allergy, one of the first things that a veterinarian will do is check for other conditions that cause similar symptoms. For instance, your pet may be checked for parasites to make sure that fleas are not causing them to constantly scratch their skin.
Laboratory tests may also be ordered to make sure that your pet does not have a serious health problem causing symptoms such as vomiting. Once these tests are clear, you can begin to work on assessing your pet's diet for potential allergies.
Identify the Allergen
Pets can be allergic to a variety of different ingredients, and an animal that is allergic to one ingredient is likely allergic to others. A veterinarian can sometimes use lab tests to help determine a potential allergen. However, you may also be asked to put your pet on an elimination diet to help you be sure.
During an elimination diet, the veterinarian will simply recommend feeding your dog or cat only one or two ingredients. Once your pet successfully eats those ingredients without displaying symptoms, you can gradually add in another ingredient.
This process is followed until you are able to find the culprit. Common food allergens for pets include corn, meats, soy and dairy products. For this reason, these types of ingredients may be held until the very end of the diet if your pet continues to show no more symptoms.
Select an Appropriate Food
Once you know what your pet is allergic to, you can begin testing dog or cat foods that omit these ingredients. Typically, you should see an improvement in your pet's symptoms over the next few days as any allergens exit their system.
Prevent Accidental Ingestion
The next step of treating pet food allergies is to make sure that your pet does not accidentally get fed an allergen. Make sure that everyone who cares for your pet is aware of their allergy, and always supply extra food for their special diet when you hire a sitter or board your pet at a kennel.
If you have several pets on different diets, then you can feed them in separate rooms if necessary. You may also need to make sure your pet does not accidentally eat crumbs off the floor if they are allergic to foods that you routinely eat.
At Riverfront Animal Hospital, our veterinarian is always alert for signs of food sensitivities in pets. Contact us to schedule an exam for your pet today if you suspect that food allergies may be behind their recent symptoms.