Just like humans, animals often suffer from a variety of food allergies. Depending on the complexity of your pet’s diet it may or may not be very easy to determine which food is causing the allergies. Nonetheless, allergies can cause quite a bit of discomfort for your pet so if you suspect allergies you should contact your veterinarian.
In animals, allergy reactions are usually less severe than in humans but there are a range of possible reactions. While in humans allergy symptoms range from skin irritation to anaphylactic shock (which may even result in death), symptoms in animals are usually limited to skin/coat irritation. Still, pet food allergies should be taken seriously as they can lead to quite a lot of discomfort and suffering for your pet.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Allergy symptoms for cats and dogs are quite similar but there are some important differences. If your cat is suffering from some kind of food allergy, you’ll most likely notice scabs and itching around her face and neck. On the other hand, with dogs facial itching is still a symptom of food allergies along with limb/foot chewing, stomach itching, and recurrent ear infections. One or all of these symptoms may be present at the same time so you need to be vigilant about your pet’s behaviour if you suspect an allergy. Your pet’s itching skin is also often accompanied by red, oozing rashes and bald patches. Hair loss is common and associated with itching. By far the most common symptom of food allergies in pets is itching however. Still, this itching should be taken very seriously as it can lead to autoimmune issues (wherein your pet’s immune system attacks its own body) meaning that this “skin itching” can even affect internal organs.
Diagnosing food allergies can be very tricky. Most pet diets are actually quite complicated as there are many ingredients that compose pet foods. In any given pet diet you’ll find a variety of processed foods including proteins, fillers, and artificial colourings which could all be responsible for allergies. So before a diagnosis can be made, a number of eliminations need to be made. For example, your pet’s itchiness has persisted year round and has not ever been associated with seasonal changes. In addition, if your pet has had only limited success with cortisone treatments for itchiness this may indicate that your pet has an allergy. Speak to your veterinarian about the signs you should be looking for with your specific breed of cat or dog. Take some time to observe your pet at home and once you feel confident that your animal is suffering from an allergy and then visit a veterinarian for further diagnostic tests.
Treatment of food pet allergies usually involves a number of stages. Treatment and diagnosis almost go hand-in-hand as with most allergies you need to use a process of elimination to determine which food is the culprit. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a hypoallergenic diet to see if this will eliminate your pet’s allergy.