Food allergy problems
On a less common note, we occassionally see pets develop allergies to a protein source in their diet- even if they have been on the same diet for some years.
Food allergies are not seasonal i.e. the skin problems go all year as long as they stay on the same diet. On a percentage basis, approx. 1% of itchy pets have a food allergy, so it is not a very common condition. Pets can also get other diseases of the body from food allergies (see below).
Skin lesions are similar to those of flea allergy dermatitis
- Chewing the lower backline
- Hair loss down the middle of the backline
- Cats getting multiple scabs ands sores around the head and neck region
- Lesions can be very inflamed and infected.
Food allergies have been implicated in many diseases in pets and people. The basic problem is that 0.2% of the protein in a meal gets absorbed into the bloodstream unchanged from what it looked like when swallowed.
A small percentage of dogs, cats and people are allergic to certain types of protein e.g. beef, lamb, milk proteins. The unchanged protein reacts with the immune system in the body causing a massive allergic reaction.
Local food allergy reactions (food intolerance)
- Vomit and/or diarrhoea after meals
- Flatulence (wind)
- Abdominal cramp/pain after meals
Generalised food allergy reactions
Depending on where the protein and parts of the immune system decide to travel around the body (antigen-antibody complexes), signs can include:
- Skin problems all year (see below)
- Cystitis- food allergies may be the underlying cause of urinary problems in cats
- Neurological diseases e.g. tremors, convulsions
- Arthritis in more than one joint
- Ulcers in the mouth and lips of cats (Feline Eosinophilic Complex)
Skin food allergy reactions
- Hot spots
- Generalised itching
- Hair loss lower back
- Crusts and scabs around head and neck of cats
Diagnosis and treatment of food allergies
Hills and Royal Canin have hypoallergenic diets for diagnosis & treatment of food allergy problems in dogs & cats.
Starting suspect cases on a hypoallergenic diet for a minimum of 3-4 weeks should result in early mild clinical improvement in skin and/or other problems if there is a food allergy problem.
By 10-12 weeks, there should be marked improvement.
At this stage, the owner decides to either stay on the hypoallergenic diet permanently or do some tests with different foods to see what their pet can and can't tolerate.
By introducing a particular food, e.g. beef bones for a 10-14 days, the owner looks for the early signs of disease re-occurring. Obviously, we don't want to see the pet back to the bad condition it was in before starting on the prescription diet, so stop the trail at the very first signs of problems starting.
These are some of the hypoallergenic diets on the market