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.
The 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 allergen protein for an animal than a carbohydrate. However, 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 cause about 10-15% of skin diseases in dogs.
Food allergies in animals can cause a variety of symptoms. These include:
As an animal scratches, bites, or licks at their skin, it can cause self-inflicted open wounds, which increase its risk of 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 the immune response. 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.
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 indicate other conditions, your veterinarian will most likely ask lots of questions about your animal’s history, living conditions, and living surroundings to rule out any other causes of the symptoms being recorded before a food allergy is considered.
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 be challenging.
A daily record is required during the diet period in which pet owners list all symptoms noticed and all foods that were accidentally fed which were not allowed as part of the diet.
Additional to any lifestyle changes 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.
The big question raging the internet is, “Do wild animals have food allergies?” The answer- well, that’s harder to clarify.
The short answer is- we don’t know. The longer answer is – we may never know. The main issue is that while in theory, a wild animal can 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 among animals that live among humans, such as pets and those who live in captivity.
Have a pet with a food allergy- we would love to hear your journey- post in the comment section below!
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
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!!!!
Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA
My family ordered a week's worth of food from Food Allergy Concierge during the most recent lockdown. Having the food on hand, and knowing that it was safe for everyone in the family to eat, helped turn the lockdown into a stay-cation! We were still able to take a break from cooking and worrying, and we look forward to using FAC's services again in the future.
We are so lucky we found this company to help us while our son was traveling. They provided allergy-safe baked goods and delivered them to his hotel so he could have bread and pastries on his month-long Israel trip. It was very easy ordering and communicating his needs. I would definitely use the food allergy concierge again the next time he travels to Israel.