Ah-chew! a primer on food allergies – part 2

Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on Sep 30 2013

Yesterday, I explained a little about food allergies in pets, and described some symptoms that indicate your pet might be suffering from them. Diagnosing food allergies can be tricky, because your vet must first rule out any other possible causes of your pet’s clinical signs. Once that has been accomplished, the next recommended course of action is performing a food trial on your pet.

Food trials are harder on pet parents then they are on your furry family member. They involve choosing a diet (often a prescription diet) with limited ingredients. This decision on what to feed needs to be made with your vet, as there are MANY considerations to take into account when choosing these foods. Also, it is incredibly important to remember the following regarding food trials:

  • It can take 10-12 weeks of your pet eating the new food before you see a significant response. Don’t lose heart! Perseverance is the key.
  • It is essential that you keep your pet on the diet you and your vet decide to try. Don’t make ANY diet changes without discussing them with your vet first…otherwise you can inadvertently cause more harm than good.
  • Your pet cannot eat ANYTHING other than the food you and your vet decide to try. No table scraps, no treats, no peanut butter on the pill to help it go down…nothing! Your vet will also likely put your pet on a topical heartworm preventative (at least for the time being).
  • In order to fully assess the effectiveness of a food trial, any and all secondary infections need to be controlled. Make sure you follow your vet’s recommendations for medications/therapies to treat any secondary infections/infestations.
  • Don’t lose heart! Sometimes the first food you try doesn’t work. Keep your vet updated on your pet’s progress, and understand that you may have to try more than one food trial to find what works best for your pet!

Okay, so your pet is believed to have a food allergy. You have instituted a food trial, you are following your vet’s recommendations for treatment of concurrent infections, and you are being diligent about flea and tick control. But your pet is still having problems. What does this mean?

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Well, this could mean a few things. First of all, your pet may have more than food allergies. Conditions such as atopy often occur along with food allergies in our pets. Your pet may need more than just a food change. Perhaps the food trial worked for a few years, but now your pet is experiencing problems again. Unfortunately, this could mean your pet has developed allergies to the new food and another food trial will need to be instituted.

It is also possible that your expectations are greater than the achievable results. Allergies (no matter the type) are controlled, not cured. Your pet may never reach a state of being completely free of clinical signs. Instead, minimizing those clinical signs to manageable levels may need to be the goal. Again, make sure you keep your vet informed about how things are going and what the expectations should be. This way, you won’t be disappointed with the results!

Food allergies can be a VERY frustrating condition for pet parents and vets alike. There are no simple answers that work for every pet. It is truly a condition that is diagnosed and treated on a case by case basis. Just remember, your vet is in your corner and wants your pet to be comfortable! It just might take some time to figure out what exactly will make that happen.

As for my friend’s Golden Retriever, the current food trial seems to be going pretty well. Squirt was suffering from recurrent ear infections and chronic diarrhea/soft stool. After starting the food trial, my friend reports that Squirt’s ears are well controlled with periodic therapy and her stools, although not normal, are much improved! Three cheers for limited ingredient diets!

To more waggin’ and purrin’. rwkj

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