So, you think food allergies are the unique domain of humankind? Well, think again. Animals suffer from food allergy symptoms too, and there is an ever expanding list of foods and food ingredients that, given the individual in question, could be the offending agent.
In fact, next to obesity, skin and ear-related concerns are the most prevalent conditions seen by veterinarians. Allergic reactions can show up in puppies as young as five months old, or in seniors as old as 12 years of age, though the vast majority of cases occur between two and six years.
Various prepared pet food ingredients can trigger allergic or food-sensitivity reactions in dogs and cats. These include not only the expected list of chemical additives, preservatives and flavorings that offer no nutritional value, but also many commonplace menu items that are known to be healthy dietary staples for most pets. Separating the helpful ingredients from the harmful is the key to sound pet nutrition and health.
About Allergies and Intolerances
It’s worth noting that domestic animals, like their human owners, can experience “food intolerance” — a reaction to certain foods that may not be caused by allergies at all. But first, what is a food allergy? Simply, it involves an immunological response to a food ingredient — generally a protein — that the body interprets to be harmful. The body fights this “hostile” element by producing antibodies that cause the reactions we humans often associate with allergies — watering eyes, sniffling and sneezing, skin rashes, and the like.
On the other hand, food intolerances do not involve the immune system, but rather represent the intake of foods the digestive system cannot adequately break down. This causes a range of gastrointestinal (GI) system disturbances, but generally few non-GI symptoms.
With both food allergies and intolerances on the rise among members of the pet kingdom, it’s important for their owners to recognize the signs of an allergic or intolerance reaction, determine the foods that might be causing it, and take steps to correct the problem.
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, to a lesser extent, 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.
Identifying and Removing the Offending Foods
There are many foods that can cause allergic or intolerance reactions in pets, and unfortunately, the list is growing every day. The challenge, however, lies not in cataloging all potentially detrimental ingredients, but rather knowing which one(s) can be hurtful to your pet.
In addition to the artificial additives mentioned above, there are many otherwise healthy ingredients that can potentially pose a problem for sensitive pets. Meats of all kinds, including beef and poultry, are known allergens and/or GI irritants to some animals, as are wheat/wheat protein, eggs, dairy and soy-based products. 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. Choose a diet that features only a limited number of ingredients, such as Wellness® Simple Food Solutions® Rice and Salmon Formula with complementary Wellness® Simple Food Solutions® Canned Salmon and Rice Formula as a topper or mix in. This delicious limited ingredient diet 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.
Treat the Secondary Problems, Too
In addition to eliminating the dietary allergen or irritant and making the necessary switch to a quality natural pet food, you should visit your veterinarian. If your pet is prone to scratching, his skin should be examined for inflammation and infection that can lead to further medical complications and compromise overall health.
So when your pet begins scratching his head long past flea and tick season, don’t be left scratching your own in wonder. Consider their diet and whether there are some all-natural substitutions you should be making to keep them happy, healthy and well-fed. Wellness® Simple Food Solutions® are created for dogs who thrive on a limited ingredient diet and now come in a complete line with new cans.