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Vet Tech Rounds: Food allergies in dogs and cats

Posted 2020-08-06


Food allergies are on the increase, and not just in humans! Sadly some of our furkids may experience discomfort from certain types of food. There is no simple test to diagnose a food allergy, and it can be a long process of elimination. Sometimes the way forward involves a lot of back and forth.

An allergen as a substance is usually harmless, but in certain animals it can cause an over-reaction of the immune system. Certain molecules within an allergen trigger the body to release a histamine response to combat the ‘invader’. This histamine release triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body that we see on the outside as allergy symptoms.

cooking for pets - why raw food is not suitable for your pet

Food allergies in dogs and cats are common. While many pet parents think that their pets may be sensitive to grains or other carbohydrate or starch components of their diet, it is actually usually the protein source which causes allergies. It is very rare for a pet to be allergic to a particular grain or starch. In fact chicken and beef are two of the most common food allergens for pets.

Signs of Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Food allergies in dogs and cats most often cause troubles with the skin, particularly on the face, rear end and paws. Symptoms related to the skin that may be seen with food allergies are:

  • Itching
  • Licking/chewing
  • Redness
  • Dry & flaky skin
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Change of skin pigment
  • Strong odor on the skin

Diagnosis and Methods to help Pets cope with Food Allergies

If you suspect your pet may be allergic to a dietary component, it’s important to consult your vet. They can help you work through the steps necessary to find out what the allergen is and the best way to treat the symptoms.

The first step is often a food trial. For a food trial your pet’s diet will be changed to one with a ‘novel protein’. Pets tend to be allergic to more commonly used proteins, such as chicken and beef. A novel protein is one that is not as common such as kangaroo, rabbit, or venison. This change in diet must be followed strictly for at least 8 weeks. No treats or other foods at all should be given, as this can cause a flare-up and negate the results of the food trial. As you can tell, this process can be a bit frustrating for both the pet and the pet parent.

If a food trial is unable to pin-point the allergen, a veterinary dermatologist can perform a specialized allergy test. The only reliable allergy testing is done either as a blood test or as a dermal test (testing directly on the skin) by a veterinarian.

Once an allergen is pinpointed, it is important to avoid all access to that protein for your pet. This can sometimes be tough if you have a very social pet. Friends and visitors may be tempted to offer your pet a treat, but it’s important to ask them to refrain. Even a very small piece of a food which your pet is allergic to can trigger a flair up that can take weeks to get back under control.

Sophie with her food and supplements

Home cooked meals can also help to eliminate any possibility of allergen contamination in the diet. Here at NHV, our resident Veterinarian Dr. Amanda can formulate a home cooked nutrition plan for your pet, keeping their specific dietary needs in mind. The diet plan that she provides includes 3 different recipes with many different component options, allowing multiple choices for you and your pet! Each pet plan is carefully put together, with age, breed and health conditions a top priority. Many parents enjoy cooking for their pets, and all of Dr Amanda’s recipes can be batch made and frozen for ultimate convenience.

Natural Supplements to Support Your Pet’s Immune System

NHV's Chaya has a chicken allergy - Stimmune helps to reduce her symptoms when she has flare ups!

NHV’s Chaya has a chicken allergy – Stimmune helps to reduce her symptoms when she has flare ups!

NHV Stimmune is formulated to help balance the body’s immune system and histamine response. This helps to decrease the symptoms we see such as itching and redness or inflammation. Stimmune helps the immune system to fight the substances which are a real threat to the body, rather than harmless substances like allergens.

Skin breakouts with food allergies can occur as lesions around the belly or throughout the body. These can also be concentrated on the mouth and the paws. Ouch Away Spray is a good choice to help topically soothe inflammation caused by allergies. The formula not only heals and helps to repair the skin, but it also promotes the regrowth of hair.

Ear infections are very common in pets with food allergies. NHV Echo Gold helps keep the ears clean and helps reduce symptoms of infections like redness, itchiness, pain and discharge.

What to do while you figure things out

Sometimes veterinarians will recommend a hypoallergenic diet. You could opt for a good quality commercial diet or a home-cooked one that is prepared by a veterinarian. And couple it  with NHV Stimmune. The NHV Stimmune will help settle any allergic flare ups while your figure out the road ahead.

Keep a close eye for any symptoms and stick to the same hypoallergenic proteins for treats as well. If you feel that the food allergies are causing a lack of proper nutrition then NHV Multi Essentials is a great herbal multivitamin. Keeping your pet active and healthy overall, is a great way of building their immune system.

stimmune for cats

If your pet is suffering from allergies, contact our pet experts. We’d be happy to help choose the supplements that are right for your furry friend and help make life for you both, just that little bit easier!

Johanna is NHV’s in house Registered Veterinary Technician. Technicians are the veterinary equivalent of a human nurse. Johanna has over 10 years of experience in different types of veterinary clinics and hospitals. She has seen and assisted in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and injuries. She will share her experiences in her monthly blog series “Vet Tech Rounds” to help our extended NHV family learn about common preventable medical cases and other interesting stories of vet clinic life.

2 replies.

  1. Cindy says:

    Hi, my cat has been scratching and over-grooming himself for the past 12 months. We have sought advice from a few vet and finally, an allergy test was taken.
    He is allergic to potato, rice, wheat, soybean, beef, oatmeal, flax seed and venison.
    We are trying to remove some of these allergens now but is there anything in NHV which we can try?


    1. Team NHV says:

      Hi Cindy,

      We are very sorry to hear that your little one has food allergies.

      Diet will be extremely important at this moment to keep these symptoms at bay. Have you had the chance to discuss with the vet what would be the best diet for him?

      In case you feel like cooking for your pet, our in-house veterinarian Dr. Amanda can create a nutritional plan based on his needs and also taking into consideration his alimentary restrictions. She will send you a couple of easy to prepare recipes for a homemade diet. I’m sending you the link in case you want more information about it:

      Sometimes cats can start behave like that after a stressful situation such as a major change in the routine like new house, new family member, new litter, etc. Lots of playtime can help them spend some energy and supporting their well-being at the same time.

      In terms of supplements we can recommend:

      Stimmune for cats An herbal formula that helps support the immune system. It is beneficial for autoimmune conditions, dermatitis (skin allergies), recurrent infections, food allergies, and to help strengthen the body against infection.

      Petomega 3 for cats A daily supplement to enhance overall health and well being. Omega-3 fatty acids will be helpful in supporting cardiac health, joint health, coat health, supports respiratory and urinary tract health. It’s important for cats to get essential fatty acids through their diet and many processed cat foods are deficient in this important nutrient.

      Turmeric for Cats has anti-inflammatory properties and may be used to reduce inflammation of the skin. Its nutritive properties and high concentration of antioxidants can help increase overall vitality while providing support for a variety of health conditions such as heart conditions, cancer and arthritis.

      If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to let us know. We are always here for you.

      Sending lots of love and healing vibes to your sweet little one

      Yours in wellness,
      Team NHV

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