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Food Allergies in Pets
If your dog or cat is having problems with commercial pet food, you may think it's dealing with a pet food allergy. Some pets do develop allergies to certain foods, but many of the reactions dogs and cats have are classified as food intolerance, not allergies. The difference is in the symptoms. With a food intolerance, your pet's system going into emergency overdrive to rid its system of the offending food. It may vomit, have diarrhea, or both. The symptoms are close to immediate and stop after the food is gone from its system.
A food allergy, on the other hand, affects your pet's entire system. It usually shows up as hives, itching, hair loss, ear infections, or other systemic problems. Your pet's entire body will react to the allergen, not just its intestinal tract. While your pet may show allergy symptoms if allergic to something other than food, it's a simple process to narrow down the allergens that are affecting your cat or dog.
At Southglen Veterinary Hospital, our veterinarians can teach you how to determine which food your pet is allergic to and what to do about the allergy after it's diagnosed. It's a simple process, but one that takes a committed period of time. It all begins with clearing your pet's system of every food that may cause allergies. This means stopping any commercial pet foods and treats, and feeding your pet exclusively on a diet of homemade food consisting of an unusual protein mixed with an unusual carbohydrate. Choose foods your pet has never eaten before, such as rabbit plus potato or venison and rice. Use this food for 12 weeks, making sure your pet is completely symptom free at the end of this period.
During this time you should avoid allowing your pet to have any foodstuffs beside the special diet. Avoid the following:
Flavored plastic toys
Treats that hide medication
Once your pet's system is clear, begin the process of introducing foods back into its diet. Choose only one food at a time, such as beef or corn, and mix it in with the specialized diet. If your pet has no allergic reactions after 21 days, the odd are good that this isn't the source of your pet's allergies. Remove the new food and try a new one, repeating this process until you find the food or foods that are causing the reactions.
Unfortunately, there are no true cures for food allergies except to avoid the food for the rest of the pet's life. Homemade pet food may be the best option, but specialized commercial products may be available, depending on the food you need to avoid.
For questions or concerns about your pet and food allergies, call Southglen Veterinary Hospital at 204-817-1751. Our veterinarians are happy to examine your pet and discuss food problems and solutions with you.