Just like people can be allergic to peanuts, shellfish, or any other food, our furry kids can have pet food allergies too. This can be frustrating for pet parents and distressing for your four-legged buddies. Thankfully, there are ways to treat and manage pet food allergies that don’t involve daily doses of expensive medications.
Symptoms of Pet Food Allergies
Humans with a food allergy feel ill. Think yucky belly. They may also get a rash or have breathing issues. For pets the immune response is different. Cats and dogs with food allergies may have intense itching, particularly on the ears and feet. You may also notice patches of discolored skin or loss of hair. Chronic ear infections are also common in pets with food allergies.
Other signs to look for include red or bloody looking nail beds, red or pink lips, dull coat, and watery eyes. Any of these symptoms may also indicate other issues such as injury or thyroid concerns. Therefore, it’s important to check with your vet to be certain there’s nothing more serious going on. Your vet will also be able to test for specific food allergies to help you find the best ways to keep your pet happy and comfortable.
Common Food Allergens
Most pet food sold today has fillers – usually wheat, corn, or rice. This isn’t great for your pet, but it makes the food cheaper to produce. Each of those grains can be a potential allergen for your pet and are the most common culprits.
Other common ingredients in pet food include potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, peanuts, and legumes such as lentils, soy beans, and kidney beans. As you can imagine, this is not what your pet would eat in the wild and may also be the source of an allergy.
The dairy and proteins in pet food can also cause an allergic reaction. Although they’re more natural, most of the pet food ingredients are from GMO farms and there appears to be a connection between GMOs and pet food allergies.
Treating Pet Food Allergies
Just as with humans, allergy medication is available. But it’s not always budget-friendly and giving your pet a daily (or multiple times a day) dose of medication isn’t appealing to most people. Instead, there’s a much simpler solution! (And it’s also one people use…) Remove the allergens from your pet’s diet. To do this, your vet can conduct a food allergy test. Another way to determine what your pet is allergic to is with a food trial.
It’s best to work with your vet to ensure your pet gets good nutrition throughout the food trial. Basically, for 12-weeks, you feed your pet a novel (something he or she has never eaten before) food that contains very few ingredients. None of those will be the suspected allergy source. If your pet’s symptoms improve during the trial, your pet has a food allergy. To double check, return to feeding the original food. If a quick relapse occurs (usually within 3-5 days), this is your confirmation that your pet has a food allergy. To find the specific allergen, you repeat this process adding one ingredient at a time until the specific foods causing the problem are identified.
Once you know which foods cause your pet food allergies to flare up, it’s easy to shop for and buy pet food that does not contain those ingredients. Many grain-free and “biologically appropriate” foods are readily available. They seem more expensive at first; however, because they’re not made with fillers, your pet feels fuller and will actually eat less of it. So it probably works out to about the same amount of money every month.
For pets with pet food allergies, meal time can be a source of itchy frustration. For owners, it’s hard to see their fur babies suffer and not know how to help them. Fortunately, changing their food can be the ideal solution for everyone.