Having a pet who’s constantly scratching, losing fur, and dealing with rough, scaly, swollen skin or open sores can be extremely frustrating. Not only is your pet miserable, but you’re at a loss as to how to help them feel better.
Coming up with an accurate diagnosis for itchy skin may involve testing for a food allergy. Food allergies in pets can seriously undermine a pet’s health and wellbeing, which is why it’s important that pet owners be able to recognize certain signs and seek treatment as soon as possible.
An Itchy Situation
Food allergies occur when a pet’s immune system reacts to food that’s been ingested, typically resulting in itching or other skin-related issues. Food allergies in pets differ from food intolerance, which is a physical response to food, such as spoiled food, chemical additives, or an abrupt change in diet.
Food allergies are most often triggered by a protein, although, in some cases, a carbohydrate may be to blame. The most common causes of food allergies in pets include:
- Beef (most common)
- Soy products
- Dairy products
- Wheat gluten
- Corn (least common)
Pets who have reactions to certain foods may lick or bite at their paws, sides, groin, or ears. Hives or sores may develop, and, in some instances, a pet will experience vomiting or diarrhea.
Diagnosing Food Allergies in Pets
Because other types of allergies can also manifest as itchy skin, it can be difficult to diagnose food allergies in pets. Blood tests are available, but they’re not always reliable. If a food allergy is suspected, a feeding trial is usually ordered to determine the specific cause.
During a feeding trial, your pet is fed a prescription diet for 4-6 weeks that contains new (to them), highly digestible protein and carbohydrate sources with minimal additives.
During a feeding trial, you can expect the following:
- Your pet must only eat the prescribed diet.
- No treats or table scraps are allowed.
- Your pet can only have unflavored medications.
- Your pet must not have access to other food sources, such as the garbage, yard, or begging/stealing from other people or pets (all family members must be on board; other household pets should be fed the same diet during that time period).
If your pet’s symptoms improve or go away completely during the feeding trial, it’s considered a positive test result. You will then be asked to resume feeding your pet their old diet. If symptoms reappear, a food allergy is confirmed.
What Happens Next?
The only effective treatment for food allergies in pets is to permanently eliminate the offending protein or carbohydrate from your pet’s diet. Your veterinarian will work with you to select the right commercial pet food and treats to ensure your pet’s symptoms do not return.
Any type of allergy can be tough on a pet and their family, but the sooner your pet comes in for help, the sooner we can get them back on track. Please call the team at Vaughn Road Veterinary Hospital for more information or to schedule an appointment.