Itching? Scratching? Tummy upsets? Coughing or wheezing? Could your pet have a food allergy? What to look for and how to help!

Is your pet itching and scratching excessively? Shaking his head, biting his paws and licking obsessively? Does he vomit often or have diarrhea? Does he wheeze or cough a lot? If you’ve treated these symptoms but your pooch or kitty is still in discomfort, a food allergy is often the cause.

 1. What is a food allergy?

Food allergies are often described as an abnormal reaction to a particular food or ingredient. There are two types of abnormal reactions to food.  One is when there is a Immune system reaction to food allergens and these are referred as food allergies. In order for food allergy symptoms to occur, previous exposure to the allergen is required. In the case of the other abnormal reaction, it does not involve the immune system and occurs when first exposed to a particular food and is referred to as a food intolerance. 

 2. What are the common signs of a food allergy?

The most common signs of a food allergy include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea or gassiness
  • Frequent itching and scratching of the skin
  • Licking or biting their feet
  • Lacklustre coat or hair loss
  • Inflamed or irritated skin
  • Chronic ear inflammation
  • Coughing, sneezing or wheezing
  • Poor growth development in pets

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  1. What causes allergies?

There are certain factors such as genetics or the environment that could trigger a food allergy in your dog or cat. Breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds and Rex cats are predisposed to allergies. In some cases it may take months or even years before your pet develops an allergy to a particular ingredient – but from the moment that they are allergic, they will always experience an adverse reaction to that food!

Dogs are especially allergic to proteins derived from an animal or plant-based source of their diet. Common culprits of food allergies include beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish, dairy, egg and wheat. Food allergies often occur due to constant exposure to one particular ingredient. With our modern tendency to feed pets ‘convenience’ store bought foods, we have removed variety from their diet and made them more vulnerable to the development of allergies.

 4. How would I be able to detect if my pet has a food allergy?

If you suspect a food allergy, your vet would run blood tests or skin or ear discharge tests to determine the dietary allergen. Most of these tests are horribly expensive and not always accurate, and the best way to diagnose allergies properly is by doing a DIY elimination diet. Basically, what you have to do is eliminate all food sources that your pet usually eats and try him on a completely new food. If the symptoms clear up, then you probably have the answer!

 It is recommended that when doing the elimination diet you use as few ingredients as possible – choose one source of protein and one source of carbohydrate. If you use more ingredients, particularly if you’re changing to a commercial food, it is more than likely that the allergen may be included in the diet. At this point, you’re probably wondering what ingredients to exclude and these include all ingredients in commercial pet food such as beef, chicken, lamb, fish, dairy, wheat, soy, corn or oats. Don’t forget to exclude the flavoured treats and biscuits, rawhides, bones and chew toys too!

Feed your dog a protein and carb that they’ve never had before – the ratio should be 2 parts carbs to 1 part protein. Protein sources to try include fish, turkey, duck, ostrich, venison or other game meat. Carbs to try include rice, potatoes or pulses. For cats, a 100% protein diet is usually recommended.

 The elimination diet is typically over a 6 to 8 week period. Once improvement is noted, you can start reintroducing the old foods and if your pet experiences a reaction, then he definitely has a food allergy (please note it takes a few days up until a few weeks to develop)

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 5. What can I do to prevent and treat my pet’s allergies?

The most effective way to manage a food allergy or adverse reaction to a particular ingredient is to avoid that ingredient. If you used the elimination diet, then you will be aware of the offending ingredients causing your dog or cat’s allergy. It’s important to feed your pet a well-balanced diet with a few ingredients only,  free of additives and preservatives. In addition, pets need variety in their diet, just like humans do. Choose from a variety of healthy, additive free foods.  Switch to natural based diets such as Grandma Lucy's Artisan ChickenDoggoBone Raw Food for dogs or Vondi’s Cooked Food for dogs and cats. Both these diets contain 100% natural ingredients which include various meats (chicken, ostrich, beef, mutton, turkey, venison), as well as veggies and fresh herbs for flavour.

In order to prevent symptoms that may cause your pet discomfort, use a natural antihistamine such as AllergiClear Pets – this all-natural remedy prevents food allergies and improves your pet’s overall resistance against allergens.  Treat itchy skin with a 100% homeopathic remedy called Allergy Itch Ease for quick relief while restoring the overall condition of your pet’s skin with Skin & Coat Tonic capsules. If your pet’s symptoms are respiratory, Feelgood Pets Respo-K can help to reduce congestion and wheezing.

Identifying a food allergy is not always easy but through trial and error, lots of patience and persistence, your efforts will eventually pay off when you see how happy and healthy your pet is!


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  • carla - October 11, 2016

    Good day.
    I have an 8 year old feline, she only eats Royal canin, sensible, exigent & 12yrs+. Occassionaly she will eat a piece of ham but other than that she sticks only to the above foods. She has the tendency to shake her head at times & its a clear indication there is some irritation. I have taken her to the vet on numerous occassions but the vet is at a loss for words.
    How do i establish whether Sushi has allergies?

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