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Can animals have food allergies?

You may be surprised to hear this, but in the same manner that humans become allergic to certain foods, animals can develop food allergies. There are 3 types of allergies in animals: skin, food and environmental. To complicate matters more, the symptoms of these 3 types of allergies can overlap and appear as the same, making a diagnosis more difficult.

pets with food allergies

Majority of animals don’t have a food allergy, rather a food intolerance or food sensitivities. Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities are a gradual reaction to any specific food in the animal’s diet, for example; beef, chicken, eggs corn, soy etc. Food allergies are strongly suspected when the first signs of irritation begin before the animal is 6 months of age or after 6 years of age. Interestingly, more often it is the protein that is the allergen for an animal than a carbohydrate although an animal may be allergic to more than one substance in its diet with the most common food allergy in cats being fish, beef and dairy products. Unlike seasonal allergies, food allergies cause symptoms all year round and aren’t relieved through anti-itch medications.

It is estimated that food allergies affect between 6-25% of dogs with most dogs being allergic to more than one food item and 0.22-22% of cats. Statistics on other animals are harder to find with only a few cases documented as evidence in horses. Food allergies are the third most common cause of itching in animals and are the cause of about 10-15% of skin diseases in dogs.

Symptoms:

Food allergies in animals can cause a variety of symptoms. These include:

  • Itchiness (most commonly in their ears and paws)
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

As an animal scratches, bites or licks at their skin it can cause self-inflicted open wounds which increase its risk to yeast and bacterial skin infections which may require treatment by a veterinarian. According to AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Jerry Klein, true food allergies result in an immune response; and in some rare cases, a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can occur, which can be fatal if medical treatment isn’t sought— similar to severe peanut allergies in humans- so it is always worthwhile to check any symptoms your pet might be having with your vet.

Diagnosing your pet:

pets with food allergies

In order to get an accurate diagnosis, it is best to make an appointment with your veterinarian so you can work together for the benefit of the animal. Since many of the symptoms can also be an indication of other conditions, your veterinarian will most likely ask lots of questions about your animal’s history, living conditions and living surroundings in order to rule out any other causes of the symptoms being recorded before a food allergy is considered. 

Treatment:

If food allergies are considered a likely cause, your veterinarian may first suggest an allergy test. However, since the results aren’t guaranteed, food allergies are often diagnosed in animals using an elimination diet. An elimination diet goes into effect over a period of 12 weeks.

During the diet, the animal is only fed homemade food or food otherwise prescribed by the veterinarian. After a time during which there have not been any allergic reactions, other foods can gradually be reintroduced. As with human allergies, the best course of action is to avoid problematic foods altogether however since most commercial pet foods contain grains, meat and soy in their ingredients, buying commercial products can prove to be a challenge.

A daily record is required during the diet period in which pet owner’s list all symptoms noticed as well as all foods that were accidentally fed which were not allowed as part of the diet.

new menu extra thin

Additional to any changes in lifestyle that your veterinarian may suggest, they may also prescribe a medication for your pet to alleviate the symptoms they may be experiencing such as itching and infections.

Do animals in the wild have allergies?

The big question raging the internet is, “Do wild animal have food allergies?” The answer- well that’s harder to clarify.

pets with food allergies 2

The short answer is- we don’t know. The longer answer is – we may never know. The main issue is that while in theory, it’s possible for a wild animal to become allergic to a particular food- anything that will hinder an animal’s chance for survival in the wild will have a harder time surviving and therefore reproducing and would statically die younger, making it harder for any of the few statics available to be accurate. However, researchers believe that all things considered food allergies are rarer than it is among animals that live among humans- such as pets and those that live in captivity.

Have a pet with a food allergy- we would love to hear your journey- just post in the comment section below!

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What Our Clients Say

Meticulous in their preparations

During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.

 After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.

 Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.

 We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.

T.M., Chicago, USA

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We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!

We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.

My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!

It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)

We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!! 

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April 2016

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Yasher Koach!
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Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel.  We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!

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