Can Your Pets Have Food Allergies, Too?
Last Updated: 12th January 2023 · Written by Kate Young
Just like humans, your pets can suffer food intolerances and allergies. Food allergies in pets are common. At least 10% of dogs are allergic to some kinds of foods; the percentage in cats living with allergies is not known. Apart from food allergies, many pets are intolerant to specific foods. They tend to have a very sensitive digestive system that reacts frequently.
Food allergy vs food intolerance in pets
An animal is said to suffer food allergies when its immune system reacts defensively to a particular food. Usually, the pet’s immune system mistakes the food for a harmful substance. The symptoms of food allergies differ, but typically, they include licking and scratching, as well as hives and rashes. Nausea and vomiting may also occur in some pets.
In instances of food intolerance, only the pet’s digestive system is involved. The immune system does not react. Instead, the animal’s digestive system reacts strongly to the food. Common symptoms of food intolerance in pets include bloating, severe gas, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
What triggers food allergies and intolerances in pets?
The most likely answer is genetics. Pets that suffer food allergies and intolerances have a somewhat dysfunctional immune or digestive system that mistakes some food ingredients for something harmful. Because the leading cause is genetics, when looking for a pet, you could ask the breeder if the animal has intolerances or allergies in its bloodlines. Certain breeds like rex cats or retrievers are prone to food allergies or intolerances.
What can you do if your pet is allergic or intolerant to food?
Certainly, both defects will not go away. To relieve the symptoms, you have to exclude the allergen from your pet’s diet. But it’s not easy identifying the exact allergen. The recommended procedure is the “elimination diet” technique in which you take out every potential allergen from your pet’s diet for six weeks. With this, all typical symptoms should dissipate. When this happens, you can then re-introduce the potential allergens one after the other, and as soon as any symptom of allergy shows up, you know the offending ingredient. You can then re-introduce other ingredients while eliminating the allergen from your pet’s diet.
Common food allergies in pets
Cats are mostly affected by wheat, corn, chicken, & soya.
Dogs, on the other hand, are mostly affected by wheat, chicken, rabbit, beef, pork, soy, corn, and diaries.
If you look closely, you’ll see “hypoallergenic” marked on some pet products. What this means is that the product:
- Contains just the essentials, and so, the number of ingredients is limited.
- Common sources of allergens are excluded
LifeLab has a range of tests that can test against at least 160 potential food and non-food allergens, but unfortunately, we don’t test pets (yet!).