Ditch the itch – dealing with food allergies in pets

While we often do everything to ensure our animals are happy and healthy, annoying allergies can stand in the way. As they’re difficult to diagnose and complicated to treat, allergies can be time consuming and annoying for both yourself and your pet. Making sure you’re familiar with the tell-tale signs and symptoms can help nip any issues in the bud and save your pet from stressing.

Allergies in dogs

A common canine allergy is associated with food, which is caused by the immune system reacting to certain proteins – usually wheat, dairy or beef. Some breeds are a little more susceptible to allergies than others, with Boxers, Springer Spaniels and German Shepherds being among the breeds more likely to have trouble.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • dry, itchy skin
  • increased licking
  • bald spots
  • skin infections
  • vomiting

As these signs are common with many other illnesses, it makes correctly diagnosing an allergy a difficult task! A visit to the vet will enable you to eliminate any other potentially worrying problems, allowing you to focus on cracking the cause of the allergy.

Firstly, you’ll be advised to eliminate the ingredients that typically cause an adverse reaction, which means cutting back treats and not giving any ‘human’ food. If the food you typically feed has a long list of ingredients you don’t recognise, it may be wise to cut back to a food specifically for sensitive stomachs or look for options with specific ingredients cut out – look for ‘grain-free’, ‘wheat-free’, ‘beef-free’ etc.

Once the symptoms have subsided, you can try re-introducing certain ingredients one at a time – and when you see a reaction, you’ll have a better understanding of what is causing it, and so avoid the ingredient in the future.

Allergies in cats

Just like dogs, a common cause of allergy in cats is associated with food. Both plants and proteins can cause allergies, with ingredients such as wheat, corn, soy, beef, lamb, dairy and white fish being known to have adverse effects.

A food intolerance will show itself as a skin problem, causing the cat to scratch persistently, leading to hair loss as well as vomiting and diarrhoea. If the skin is particularly affected on the head and neck, this can indicate a skin condition, but it is always wise to first go to your vet in order to rule out other possibilities.

Much like dogs, to help alleviate the symptoms you’ll need to take a close look at the diet and begin excluding certain ingredients – waiting for the symptoms to subside and then re-adding certain ingredients one by one.

Allergies in rabbits

Allergic reactions in rabbits are somewhat simpler when compared to other pets, with skin irritation being the main issue. If you see your rabbit itching excessively and loosing areas of hair, it is likely the diet causing the reaction. Start by offering a new diet of hay and pellets – both of which are not known to be allergens – and once the itching has stopped, slowly re-introduce the previous diet to highlight the specific food that was the cause.