Food AllergiesThere is no reliable blood test, saliva test, or skin test to diagnose a food allergy. The diagnosis for a food allergy is determined by an elimination diet trial.
What is a food allergy?
Food hypersensitivity (or food allergy) is a common skin disorder in dogs and cats that is caused by an allergic reaction to a protein or carbohydrate source in food. The component of the food that the animal reacts to is usually a protein source (beef, lamb, chicken, fish, egg, soy) but it may be due to a minor component (carbohydrate, preservative, additive, dye). This can be complicated and frustrating with many foods being offered or recommended and many companies cannot provide guarantee of no cross contamination in their manufacturing facilities.
Food allergies in dogs and cats can be complicated due to the fact your pet may have more than one allergy or develop a secondary infection in addition to the food allergy. This may make the diagnosis and treatment more frustrating and difficult as infections can be itchy on their own. It is important to continue frequent communication with our clinic so that we may better manage your pet’s allergy.
When does this occur in my pet?
Because this is an acquired disease, the animal often has been fed the food for months to years prior to the onset of the disease. The majority of dogs with food hypersensitivity manifest clinical signs before three years of age, however, the disease may occur at any age.
Symptoms and what to look for
The most common sign of food allergy can be an intense, non-seasonal itch that can be generalized to a few locations of the body. Recurrent skin/ear infections are common in both dogs and cats. Some pets may also have gastrointestinal signs of vomiting and/or diarrhea). In both species, the disease may be poorly responsive to glucocorticoids (steroids).
How to diagnose a food allergy
The diagnosis of food allergy involves a very strict food elimination trial. There is currently no other accurate test to determine if your pet has a food allergy. It is believed that animals may react to allergens in their food for up to six weeks or more; therefore a restrictive diet must be given for up six to eight weeks.
What do I feed my pet?
It is important to be complete when relaying your animal’s diet history so that an appropriate diet may be chosen for your pet. We will provide you alternative treats that are allowed during the food trial. During a food elimination trial the prescribed diet is fed exclusively for the period of time recommended by Dr. Randall. Treats, supplements, vitamin pill and probiotics that are often flavored as well as flea and heartworm parasite preventions need to be taken into consideration and possibly discontinued for the duration of the food trial.
If your primary veterinarian prescribes any medications it is possible it is flavored especially if it’s a chew so please call our clinic to determine if it may be given during the food trial.
Dr. Randall is also the co-founder of Serenegy, LLC. She and her sister Carla wanted to create an all-natural and limited ingredient treat option for dogs with food sensitivities. Serenegy, LLC offers various flavors of pill wraps and treats Dr. Randall formulated and tested herself. Serenegy, LLC treats are contamination free and laboratory tested (by ELISA) certifying they are free of Gluten, Soy, Milk and Egg. To be able to monitor quality, the Serenegy, LLC bakery is built next to our Beaverton clinic. For more information, you can visit their website at www.serenegy.com!
If necessary, the other animals in the household could also be fed the elimination diet.
Outdoor cats must be kept away from other food sources to have a successful food trial. It may be necessary to confine them indoors for the duration of the food trial. Please exercise caution if you have other pets and make certain that the pet on the trial diet never gets an opportunity to eat any of the other animal’s food (or even lick their bowl!). One morsel of another type of food has the potential to invalidate the entire elimination diet trial.
Transitioning the diet
Once the restricted diet protein is determined we advise to gradually transition to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Consult with our office if you have questions or concerns when transitioning. Some pets may have loose stools while receiving the trial diet.
Cats may begin to develop a serious liver disease if they do not eat for two days or more. Do not allow your cat to go without eating for more than two days. Consult with our clinic if any of the other problems occur before or during changing the diet.
At the end of a food trial - what’s next?
At the end of the dietary trial Dr. Randall may have you challenge your pet with one protein at a time for a two week duration to see if their signs worsen. This is how the diagnosis of food allergy is made.
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