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Food allergy in dogs and cats **2022 New

Food allergy in dogs and cats: Over the past few decades, the importance of companion animals – especially dogs and cats – has grown to become a family member. For this reason, no one is surprised by the problem of food hypersensitivity and allergies in dogs and cats. Veterinary dermatologists suggest that food allergies cause about 10 – 20% of skin diseases in dogs; however, there are still no accurate data available due to the variety of symptoms that overlap with different disease profiles, which contributes to difficult diagnosis.
So how do you deal with suspected food allergies in dogs and cats? Where to start?

What is a food allergy, and how is it diagnosed? – Food allergy in dogs and cats

An allergy is an undesirable reaction to allergens that enter the digestive tract, activating the immune system simultaneously. In practice, this means that the dog/cat’s organism treats a given food product as a hazard that needs to eliminate.
Food allergy most often manifests itself:

  • Itching and redness of the skin – especially around the interdigital spaces, head, neck, ears, and abdomen;
  • In advanced states, baldness, scabs, and scars are visible;
  • Gastric problems (diarrhea, vomiting, constipation) cover only 10-20% of clinical cases.
  • It is an individual matter to determine the most allergenic component of food; however, based on the conducted research, it can conclude that proteins of plant origin are the least allergenic. Most importantly – beef, chicken, chicken egg, and cow’s milk.

What does an allergy depend on? – Food allergy in dogs and cats

It is believed that environmental degradation and genetic factors are primarily responsible for the emergence of an increasing number of types of allergies.
There is a tendency towards food allergies in particular breeds of dogs – incl. Cocker spaniel, labrador retriever, golden retriever, shar-pei as, and miniature breeds – especially white-colored – Maltipoo, Maltese, and West Highland White Terriers.
Cat allergies are less common than dog allergies – a study by German scientists found that 90% of cases were in dogs and 10% in cats.
However, it should be remembered that these are not rules, and each pet should be approached individually.

Step-by-step dietary management in the case of food allergy – Food allergy in dogs and cats

An absolute condition for starting the diet is visiting the veterinary doctor with your pet. With its help, it is possible to exclude the presence of parasites and comorbidities, the symptoms of which could be misleading in the assessment of dietary management.

Due to the variety of cases and the essence of the current diet, the two most common situations that can be heard both in the veterinary office and in pet stores are distinguished below.

Food allergy in dogs and cats

Case A)

“A case of a dog allergic to somebody else”: an adult, 4-year-old mixed breed dog weighing 10 kg. Suspected food allergy with vague symptoms, appearing at various, irregular time intervals; no occurrence rule noticed by the owners, fed with household foods (available at pet stores) from different companies. The most common severe itching is in the interdigital areas, abdomen and ears; vomiting occurs.

This patient shows an irregularity in the way he feeds. Remember that frequent food changes may cause vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea problems.
In such a situation, it is recommended to switch to the so-called Elimination diet with provocative attempts. It consists in supplying food with ingredients that the animal has not been in contact with before – e.g., with horse meat, ostrich or quail, so at the same time – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates of previously unknown structure. Suppose the selected food does not cause any gastrointestinal disturbances. In that case, your pet should remain on it for a period of two to even three months – until all previous symptoms of food allergy have disappeared.

After this time, it is possible to gradually make provocation tests, i.e., to progressively administer the previously consumed products at two to three-week intervals. After observing the body’s reaction, probable allergens are identified on this basis.

Tips for the caregiver

  • Introduce each new food gradually to avoid any gastrointestinal disturbances;
  • The application is an excellent help for karm (i.e., animal products are of one species – only horse, lamb, ox). I encourage you to choose wet food. It is in them that the substrates can be minimized – thanks to this, the determination of the allergen takes place much faster;
  • Dietetic management also applies to the cat.

Case B)

“The case of a cat allergic to everything”: a 4-year-old adult European cat is weighing 4.5 kg—persistent and constant itching around the groin, interdigital spaces, and ears. The owners did not notice any changes due to the elimination diets based on horse meat, ostrich, and bison.

In the case of food allergy of unknown origin and acute course, it is good to use food with hydrolyzed animal protein. This process involves the initial breakdown of proteins into smaller structures that are easier to digest and much less susceptible to allergies.
Foods with such a composition are most often referred to as veterinary foods. However, remember to feed your pet with them for three months maximum. When all symptoms of food allergy have resolved, provocation trials can begin.

Tips for the caregiver

  • Veterinary foods are designed to heal and support your pet’s recovery. They are not as palatable as maintenance foods.
  • Zoodietetic management also applies to the dog.

Summary – Food allergy in dogs and cats

Food allergy is a disease that is difficult to diagnose due to vague symptoms. This does not mean, however, that it is impossible to do. In such a case, the owners (and all household members!) They are required to be consistent and patient. I encourage you to work closely with your veterinarian and dietician to restore the joy of eating as quickly as possible.

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