Could your pet have a food allergy?

An allergic response to food allergens such as protein (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey), wheat, or eggs.

OVERVIEW

Food allergies represent 10-15% of all skin allergy conditions in dogs with atopy the most common form of allergy. Food allergies are a nonseasonal condition that occurs as a result of ingesting a food allergen. Although commonly perceived as allergens, food additives such as preservatives are rarely documented as causes of food reactions in dogs.

Breeds commonly affected:

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Collies
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Shar Pei
  • Dalmatian
  • Boxer
  • Dachshund
  • German Shepherd
  • West Highland White Terriers

SIGNS

Common signs of food allergies:

  • Weepy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchiness
  • Ear infections
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Bad odours
  • Diarrhoea

Adverse reactions to food can be generalised showing a range of signs or localised to the feet, face, ears and abdomen.

CAUSES

Common food allergens:

  • Beef
  • Cow’s milk
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Corn

Studies show that nearly 90% of all food allergy cases were from beef, dairy products and wheat.

DIAGNOSIS

A food trial is required to diagnose a food allergy. Your pet will be provided with a novel protein diet that they have never been exposed to (homecooked or commercial), which must be strictly adhered to for 6-12 weeks. It is the removal of the food allergen that leads to an improvement of signs within 4-12 weeks. Your veterinarian may also perform a blood or skin test to determine the cause of your pet's allergies.

MANAGEMENT

Management of food allergies involves feeding the pet novel proteins such as lamb, salmon, kangaroo, rabbit, venison, duck, rice or potatoes and avoiding the food allergens.

Veterinary management of allergic signs may include:

  • Medicated shampoos
  • Medicated creams
  • Antihistamines
  • Corticosteroids
  • Cyclosporine
  • Fatty acid dietary supplements

TIPS

Tips to help reduce food allergy symptoms:

  • Strict diet avoiding known food allergens. This may require a veterinary prescription diet.
  • Avoid treats
  • Frequent bathing with natural soothing products such as aloe vera and oatmeal for healthy skin
  • Dietary supplements such as Omega 3 (DHA & EPA) for healthy skin
  • In the case of wheat allergies, consider diets of potato, rice or corn and avoid wheat, barley, rye and oat

REFERENCES

Biouge VC et al. Diagnosis of adverse reactions to food in dogs. J Nutr 2004; 134: 20625-20645

Cave N. Adverse Reactions to Food. Chronic adverse immunological responses to diet antigens. Proceedings of the 25th World Small Animal Veterinary Congress 2010

Hesta M. Hydrolysed protein diets: Where are we today? 18th ECVIM-CA Congress 2008.

Jenkins CC et al Adverse reactions to food: how to better manage your patients. Hill's Symposium on Dermatology 2006.

Roudebush P et al. Adverse reactions to food. Hand et al editors. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 5th edition Mark Morris Institute 210:609-635

Sampson HA. Update on food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2004; 113: 805-819