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Food Allergies & Food Intolerances for Pets

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About Allergies and Intolerances

Our furry companions, like their human owners, can experience “food intolerance” and “food allergy”. Food intolerance refers to a gastrointestinal response triggered by certain ingredients. For instance, a dog with a sensitive stomach may not be able to tolerate certain ingredients that then lead to diarrhea, vomiting or irritable bowel. The reasons for food intolerance are unknown. A food allergy refers to an immune response to a particular ingredient in food that can cause itching, scratching, hot spots, hair loss, ear and eye secretions, or excessive licking. A dog may be born with specific allergies, or they may build over time from prolonged exposure to certain ingredients.

Scratch, Scratch: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Just because your pets aren’t coughing and sneezing, as we do when confronted by some allergens, that doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering all the same. Pets with food allergies tend to experience skin irritation when exposed to known allergens, which in turn causes varied scratching behaviors. Dogs (and sometimes cats) that scratch their ears, vigorously shake themselves, and lick or bite at their paws or coats may be suffering from an allergic reaction. They are experiencing a skin irritation that, if left untreated, may result in infection. Many pets are also intolerant of certain food components, leaving them unable to fully metabolize the food and experiencing various GI problems. Unusual fecal color or consistency, excessive GI gurgling sounds and the passing of gas are typical symptoms to look for when trying to identify a food allergy or food intolerance.

Identifying and Removing the Offending Foods

Some of the most common offenders are common ingredients found in dog foods. The most common food allergens for dogs are beef, dairy products, eggs, chicken, corn, wheat and soy – among others. The key is to determine which one or more of these ingredients are responsible for your pet’s distress. To make that determination, a food elimination trial should be performed. In the elimination trial, you should choose a wholesome, complete and balanced diet that avoids ingredients to which the pet has previously been exposed, then feed this recipe, and this recipe only, for six to eight weeks.

Once you make a determination that ingredients in your pet’s food may be causing distress, look for a diet that features only a limited number of ingredients, such as Wellness® Simple Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food with complementary Wellness® Simple Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Canned Dog Food as a topper or mix in. This delicious limited ingredient diet is formulated for food sensitivities and food allergies and is an ideal way to assist with ruling out allergens. If clinical signs subside by the end of that period, you will know it was a particular ingredient that was consumed earlier but excluded in the elimination diet that was responsible for your pet’s adverse reaction. Wellness Simple offers dry and canned dog food with limited ingredients and four novel protein sources to choose from. All of our Simple formulas are 100% complete & balanced nutrition for dogs with food allergies and food sensitivities and are formulated with ingredients that are naturally gluten-free and wheat-free.

We have some exciting changes coming soon to our Simple Limited Ingredient Diet line for dogs with allergies. Our updated recipes will support the growing need for hypoallergenic and grain-free diets! Learn more about the improvements to our Simple packaging and ingredient updates.

Ask the Vet – Special Allergy Issue

Dr. Moser

Dr. Moser

Q: We own a Biewer Terrier that weighs 3 lb. 11 oz. and is 2 1/2 years old. She has a very touchy digestive system and gets gastroenteritis on a regular basis. We feed dry food in the morning and canned food in the evening. She gets a treat in the evening and no table scraps. She gets a terribly growling stomach which leads to diarrhea. Her stool has been checked for parasites. Due to her small size, we are always concerned about dehydration when this flairs up. Any suggestions?

A: Dogs can experience “food intolerance” and “food allergy”, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or irritable bowel, itching, scratching, hot spots, hair loss, ear and eye secretions, or excessive licking. A dog may be born with specific allergies, or they may build over time from prolonged exposure to certain ingredients.

I would recommend Wellness Simple Grain-Free Salmon and Potato Formula Canned Dog Food for the elimination trial as the sole source of nutrition. Nothing else is to be fed (no treats or table scraps). Eliminate the use of the dry diet, and the evening treat and continue this elimination trial for 8 weeks.

Wellness Simple Dry Dog Food Formulas are all formulated with a single source of protein and easily digestible carbohydrates along with added pre and probiotics. These limited ingredient diets are designed to limit food sensitive reaction while providing 100% complete and balanced nutrition for dogs with food intolerances and food allergies. For your dog, I would recommend a dietary elimination trial using Wellness® Simple Dog Food Formulas for about 8 weeks. If clinical signs subside by the end of that period, you will know it was a particular ingredient that was consumed earlier but excluded in the elimination diet that was responsible for your pet’s adverse reaction.

Feed small frequent meals –at least two to three times per day. Monitor dietary response by recordings in a journal; note days your pet experiences digestive upset as well as days with stool that is not normally well formed.

A 3.11 pound Biewer Terrier dog requires about 200 kcal of energy per day to maintain body weight. Wellness Simple Grain-Free  Salmon and Potato Formula Canned Dog Food contains about 446 kcal of energy per 12.5 ounce can. In a day you should offer about 40-45% of the can. Don’t overfeed.

Remember to weigh the dog – feed less if it is gaining unwanted weight and more if losing weight.

Q: I rescue Shelties and most of them have serious skin problems. What Wellness diet would you recommend for dogs with skin problems and allergies?

A: When choosing a diet for a food elimination trial; we look for ingredients in the test food which the dog has not had exposure to, in the most recent 6 months to 1 year, in their commercial diet.

The recently updated Simple Formulas for Dogs are designed for dogs with food sensitivities; using novel protein sources like duck, lamb, salmon or turkey, along with easily digestible carbohydrate sources, pre and probiotics and flaxseed to support skin & coat health. Each formula offers a complementary dry dog food and canned dog food recipe.

When you feed this diet exclusively for 6 to 8 weeks with clinical success; it indicates that some ingredient in the previous diet was responsible for the adverse skin reactions.

You should enlist the help of your veterinarian to rule out any non dietary causes of poor skin condition.