Just like people, cats and dogs can be allergic to certain types of foods. The reactions can develop at any stage in your pet’s life and the more your pet eats the food, the stronger the allergic reaction becomes.
Food allergies may show up concurrently with allergies to pollen, dust, etc. Symptoms include:
- Itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area
- Ear problems, often yeast-related
- Skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic therapy ceases.
Occasionally dogs with true food allergies may have increased bowel movements, soft stool and vomiting. Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerances, which are not true allergies and generally cause diarrhea and vomiting.
If you suspect your pet has allergies or chronic skin problems, visit your veterinarian. The type of condition and severity of the symptoms will determine how your veterinarian decides to treat them.
Testing for Food Allergies
Your veterinarian may put your pet on an “elimination diet,” which tests to see if your pet is allergic to his current food. For example, if you are currently feeding your dog both chicken and beef, your vet may switch him to a diet that is strictly venison. Other options include duck, fish or rabbit. The food should contain a single protein source and ideally should not have a protein or starch that you’ve previously fed your pet. Reading the ingredient list is important to determine what is in the food. Many diets that are labeled fish or lamb will have many other proteins and starches added.
In cases of severe food allergies, your veterinarian may put your pet on a diet involving hydrolyzed protein. A hydrolyzed protein is a protein that has been broken down into smaller proteins, which minimizes the chance that the protein will elicit an allergic reaction.
Royal Canin and Hills are the two brands of prescription limited ingredient diets and hydrolyzed protein diets we carry.
In order to know if the diet is the right choice for your pet, he must eat nothing else besides the directed food for a minimum of two months. There are no “cheat” days when it comes to an elimination diet. Even a single milk bone defeats the entire purpose of the diet, and your pet will have to start the diet again for another two months. If your pet’s condition improves after two months of strict dieting, we know that the diet is working. Concurrent skin infections must be controlled or else that will also contribute to itching and make it appear the diet is not helping.
There is no diet that can prevent a food allergy. Pets can eventually develop allergies to the duck or venison which would warrant a diet change again. “Grain free” diets are not necessarily better and pets can develop allergies to the ingredients in these diets as well.
Consulting your veterinarian is best before switching diets to determine what course of action is most appropriate for your pet.
FOXTAIL SEASON IS HERE
Foxtails can be inhaled or they can burrow their way directly through the skin and into the body. Extra caution should be used around foxtails if your pet has a thick coat. Once inside the body, foxtails continue to burrow and could potentially cause trauma to the lungs or other organs.
Foxtail season starts around May, when the grasses start drying out, and is most severe during the summer.
Tips for foxtail prevention:
Anesthesia is often required to remove an internal foxtail so it is best to minimize your pet’s exposure to the plant.
- Check your dog’s feet daily and remove any foxtails.
- For dogs with thick, wooly hair: Carefully comb the coat or give your pet a close whole-body trim during foxtail season.
- Get rid of any foxtails in the yard.
- Be aware of foxtails in your neighborhood and avoid walking your pet in those areas.
Signs your dog may have an internal foxtail:
Nose: Sudden extreme sneezing, pawing at the nose, bleeding from the nostril
Ear: Tilting and shaking of the head, pawing at the ear, crying, moving stiffly
Eye: Sudden squinting of the eye; Swelling around eye accompanied by tears and mucous discharge
Throat: Gagging, retching cough. Compulsive grass eating, stretching neck and swallowing.
As always, we recommend calling your veterinarian immediately if your pet exhibits any of the above symptoms.
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