Does Your Pet Have Food Allergies?

Dog and cat eating, general photoThe food your pet eats plays an important role in his/her overall health and well-being. Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle. The most common symptoms of a food allergy or intolerance are digestive upsets or skin irritation.

If your pet has a dietary sensitivity you may notice some of the following signs:

  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • flatulence
  • frequent scratching and hair loss
  • red inflamed skin
  • chronic ear problems
  • poor growth in young pets
  • coughing, wheezing and sneezing

What is dietary sensitivity?

Dietary sensitivity is a general term for any adverse reaction to food. There are two main types of dietary sensitivity. Food allergies are an immune reaction to a particular ingredient, which is usually a protein. Allergies may last a lifetime, so the ingredient must be permanently removed from your pet’s food. Food intolerance means that while the pet doesn’t experience an allergic reaction to foods, they simply cannot tolerate certain foods. Pets may be able to build up tolerance, but it’s best to avoid the offending ingredient.

What causes dietary sensitivity?

The most common causes of food allergies in dogs are beef, milk products, soy and wheat; in cats they are beef, milk products and fish. Inflammation, infection, surgery and some medications can damage the digestive system and may lead to dietary sensitivity.

How can the right food help?

Some important nutrients that can help heal and protect your pet’s skin include:

Protein – High-quality protein provides the building blocks to repair damaged skin. Feeding novel protein sources such as venison or duck may also help reduce reaction in pets with a food allergy or intolerances to more common ingredients.

Essential fatty acids – A diet containing high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, found naturally in fish oil, will help nourish and protect your pet’s skin, prevent dryness and may help control inflammation.

Antioxidants – Vitamin E and other antioxidants are vital in helping to maintain your pet’s healthy immune system and protect it from cellular oxidation caused by free radicals. Combining these nutrients in a single pet food provides a convenient way to manage your pet’s skin condition.

If your pet experiences any of the symptoms listed earlier in this article, it’s best for your primary care veterinarian to evaluate the condition. Your veterinarian may recommend a Hill’s Prescription Diet brand pet food that will help manage your pet’s skin condition/dietary sensitivity. Your pet may need long-term management, so you may be advised to feed the new food permanently or just for a short time until your pet’s condition improves.