So, your pet has allergies. They can manifest in many different ways, itchy skin, hair loss, red, irritated skin, or recurrent ear infections; the list is endless. Dealing with and finding what works for your pet can be very frustrating and a long process because the root causes of the allergies can be numerous. It is also important to note that any skin issues are not always allergies. Please consult with your veterinary team to help rule out any other diseases/conditions. One of the most common causes of allergies that we come across is food allergies. Most animals (mainly dogs and cats) that have food sensitivities are usually allergic to the protein source in the food that you are feeding your pet. Often, trying a different food with a less common protein source can alleviate the issue if the allergy is food based. A few of the most common protein sources that may aggravate your pet’s allergies are chicken, beef and pork. However, some pets have an environmental sensitivity as well as a food sensitivity. Finding food that works for your pet may be all that’s needed to manage the allergies. Sometimes they may need some extra help such as a prescription medication or other modalities. The best thing, in that case, would be to visit your veterinary team and together we can help figure out a plan for your pet.
Some dog breeds are more prone to having allergies, such as Boxers, English Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, Boston Terriers, Shar Pei’s, German Shepherds, ShihTzu’s, and West Highland Terriers, among others. However, allergies can manifest in any pet. It can be very difficult to pinpoint what exactly is causing your pet’s allergies. One way to rule out environmental/food allergies may be to do a food elimination trial. A food trial is feeding your pet a specific diet that has things your pet has not been exposed to before. A feeding trial consists of feeding your pet a diet with a novel protein or a hydrolyzed protein diet or even an an-allergenic diet for 8-12 weeks with no other treats, bones, supplements or flavoured medications. If your pet’s symptoms start to improve significantly or go away altogether, then you know the food is a component of the pet’s allergies. If your pet’s symptoms are getting better, but there are still prominent signs of sensitivity, your pet most likely has environmental allergies and food sensitivities. If you feed your pet a diet that helps manage some or most of the symptoms, medication may be required when there are flare-ups or to help manage the condition. If your pet’s symptoms go away completely with the food trial, you can slowly introduce ingredients one at a time. If your pet is going to react to that ingredient, symptoms can be seen in as little as 24 hours to 14 days. If you have introduced one ingredient and the pet hasn’t shown any signs of a reaction, you know that ingredient is not an offending allergen. The important thing is to introduce one ingredient at a time. It is also important to remember that dealing with allergies can be a long and frustrating process, but if you persevere we should be able to find what works for your pet.
Occasionally, if your pet’s allergies have been well managed with a chosen diet and they start showing symptoms again, most likely they are having a ‘flare-up’. You can consult with your veterinary team to help manage the symptoms. Your pet may require some extra help to regulate their symptoms. It is also imperative that you get your pet checked out to rule out any other diseases/conditions. If your veterinarian determines that your pet is indeed having a flare-up, they may prescribe some medication to help manage the symptoms. With some pets, their allergies may be managed with food, but they may have flare-ups in the spring, summer or fall. These animals most likely have seasonal allergies. These pets may need some extra help during those flare-ups. There are cases when your pet may not be having a flare-up, and they are becoming allergic to the ingredients in that diet. In which case, starting over again with another food trial to pinpoint the offending allergen.
Just remember that every pet is different. What works for one pet may not work for another and be patient. I know it’s hard seeing our pet uncomfortable but your veterinary team are working to figure out the root cause and what find out works best for your pet.
Written by: Vanessa Sribu, RVT