Dr. Al Townshend
While allergies and sensitivities to food are not all that common in dogs and especially cats, they can occur. They can be challenging to diagnose and control, which can mean frequent trips to the veterinarian until a diagnosis is confirmed and a solution has been developed.
Some breeds and families within a breed have seen increased instances of food allergies and sensitivities. The West Highland White Terrier, Golden retriever, Labrador Retriever, Shar Pei, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel and the Rex Cat are all breeds thoughts to have a genetic predisposition to allergy related issues.
When a food allergy does present itself, it usually manifests from the protein source. Both animal (beef, chicken or dairy) and plant-based (corn, soy or wheat) proteins can be the culprit. Determining what protein source is the root cause can usually be found through the use of elimination diet where proteins are removed and limited to determine which one is affecting your pet’s immune system.
Because general signs of a food allergy include intense itching and scratching, ear infections, licking at the paws, which are common to many other conditions, it can take several trips to the veterinarian before other conditions are ruled out. However, once a food allergy is diagnosed, its elimination from your pet’s diet can result in improvement.
Food sensitivities differentiate from an allergy as they can often be linked to a wider variety of ingestible in your pet’s diet. Fats, carbohydrates, added chemicals, dyes, artificial preservatives, and palatability enhancers are examples of ingredients that can irritate and inflame the digestive tract initiating digestive signs such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Although allergies and sensitivities to foods can occur, in most instances the root cause is an environmental one. Topicals, like shampoos and conditioners, household cleaners, dust, pollen, and laundry detergents used on their blankets and toys can be the culprit. Learn more about possible environmental impacts.
Prevention: How you can help prevent the risk of food related allergies or sensitivities.
- Start with Nutrition: Whether feeding kibble, wet, or raw foods, toppers or treats, choose options with a single protein. Look for options that list real meat in the ingredient panel like Lamb, or Lamb Meal.
- Simple is Better: Animal protein-focused, low carbohydrate foods with fewer primary ingredients limit the potential for sensitivity problems.
- Look for Meat: Avoid ingredient panels that list meat and bone or meat and bone meal which can consist of a variety of meats or meat by-products – which can change each time the food is produced. Read more about the right ingredients here.
- Consider Rotation: Rotating food ingredients, especially the primary protein, reduces the risk of and allergy or food sensitivity. Long-term use of the same food can encourage manifestation of allergies or sensitivities. For more information on rotational feeding, check this out.
- Don’t Forget the Treats: When making treat choices for your pet’s make sure that you use the same considerations around rotating limited ingredient, animal protein focused quality as the foods being fed.
Supplementing to support the immune system can help reduce the risk
Supplements that support the immune system and improve digestion can help to reduce the risk of an allergy developing. Examples of immune support supplements include:
- Fish oils are an ideal source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which reduce inflammation and support the immune system.
- Hemp seed oils are another source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
- Probiotics improve digestion and are an essential part of the body’s immune system. Daily supplementation assures optimum levels at all times.
- CBD supplements only available in the USA can reduce stress, calm an animal, take away stress and support the immune system.
Making every effort to avoid the discomfort of food allergies and sensitivities for the pet and the frustrations and cost to the Guardian can pay untold dividends in the long-term.