Pets can be allergic to a wide variety of factors including environmental agents, household items and foods consumed. Diet or food consumed by pets is the most common cause of allergies in dogs and cats. Like humans, food allergy in pets can be diagnosed with the help of blood or skin tests. The pet is put on a hypoallergenic diet for at least eight weeks to identify the food allergy. Pet food allergies can develop at any age and even without a change in diet. Beef and dairy products are the most common causes of pet food allergies but are the two most important proteins in pet foods.
Pet food allergies can be subdivided into two types: hypersensitivity reactions and food intolerances. In hypertensive reactions, the pet’s immune system misidentifies the proteins present in the food consumed as a threat to the body. In such cases, pets can suffer rashes and hives. But in the case of food tolerance, the pet’s digestive system is only affected and it reacts strongly to the food consumed with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Pugs, bulldogs, golden retrievers, labrador retrievers, and cairn terriers are some dog breeds that are more prone to food allergies. But, in the case of cats, the breeds that are affected by food allergies have not yet been identified.
Non-seasonal skin inflammation or irritation are the most common symptoms of pet food allergies. This inflammation or irritation is called allergic dermatitis. Itching is the most common sign of a food allergy in pets. This itching is caused by histamine that is released from the immune system to defend itself from the allergen. Young and middle-aged pets are more prone to food allergies as compared to senior pets because the histamine levels decrease with age and allergens are less effective.
- Irritated skin
- Continuous licking
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
- Scratching of the ears
- Shaking the head quite often
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
There can be a variety of factors that can cause pet food allergies. Genes and environmental factors have a greater role to play in allergies caused by foods. Sometimes, there could be more than just one food item that a pet is allergic to.
Some of the common foods that trigger allergies in pets are:
- Dairy products
Although there is no definite cure for pet food allergies, the intake of substances that cause an allergic reaction should be avoided. Giving your pet freshly cooked food, storing the unused food in the freezer and using glass or stainless bowls to feed pets are some precautions that can be taken to avoid food allergies. Also, including omega-3 fatty acids in the pet’s diet will help in improving and boosting its immune system.