Pet Doc: Food allergies

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Pet Doc Dennis Larsen, with West Villa Animal Hospital, said food allergy occurs when a pet’s immune system miss identifies a protein from the food as an invader rather than a food item and its body mounts an immune response against it.

"The result is itchy skin or ear or skin infections. Some pets react to food allergies by developing vomiting and diarrhea and there is the unlucky pet that has both skin and intestinal symptoms.

“Food allergies do occur but are not as common as other types of allergies. Many times, food allergies are thought to be the cause of the symptoms when actually there are other more common causes triggering the symptoms.

“The most common proteins are from animal protein and they are chicken, beef dairy and egg and fish. There is nothing particularly unique about these animal proteins but rather that they are the most common animal proteins put in dog and cat food and because of that there is a higher exposure to these proteins that pets can develop an allergy against.

“Actually, there is a lot of advertisement that dog food companies put out saying that their grain free diets help pets with food allergies but the truth of the matter is allergies from cereal grains is far less common than allergies from animal protein.

“Although gluten allergies are not all that uncommon in humans, in pets they are extremely uncommon.

“There are a couple of ways. One is by detecting antibodies to the particular food protein through laboratories that specialize in allergy testing. These labs may give us an idea of what a pet might be allergic to but they are not always

“The favored way is for veterinarians to find foods that the pet will tolerate and not so much of what foods it is allergic to. That is done by doing a food trial that has only two or three types of food protein in it plus vitamins and fat as an energy source (pets are rarely allergic to fat) and the necessary vitamins and minerals. These diets are best purchased from your veterinarian as most diets purchased commercially are cross contaminated by proteins other than the ones listed on the package.

“Hydrolyzed diets are ones that have had the proteins in them broken down to a point where the pets body no longer recognizes the protein that is in it as a protein it is allergic to. Hydrolyzed diets are the most hypoallergenic of all the pet food diets; these are purchased as prescription diets from your veterinarian.”

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