Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Pet Food Allergies

Allergies are now a relatively common problem in our companion animals. When humans are allergic to something, we will usually sneeze, have runny, irritated eyes, and become severely congested. Dogs and cats, on the other hand, are more likely to have inflamed, itchy skin and ears when they are allergic to something. Pets can be allergic to something they eat (food allergy or intolerance) or to something in their environment (atopy).

Here are some common myths surrounding food allergies in our pets

Myth: My pet has been on the same food their whole life, so it can’t be his diet that is causing his problems.
Fact: Dogs and cats can develop food allergies at any time in their life and even if they have been on the same diet their whole life!

Myth: My pet is itchy, they must need a grain-free diet.
Fact: The web-based claims about grains being bad for your pet have been so successful that it is very common to believe that grains are unhealthful or cause allergies in your dog or cat. But like everything you read online, take it with a grain of salt. Grains are certainly capable of causing allergic reactions, but it’s rare in comparison to say chicken, beef, etc. So the meat source is much more commonly the cause of the allergy, which makes sense because it’s generally the proteins in foods that cause the reaction, and meats are much more protein-dense than grains.

Myth: My pet has no gastrointestinal signs (vomiting or diarrhea) so he can’t be allergic to his food.
Fact: Some, but not all, pets with food allergies have gastrointestinal signs like vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog has chronic or on and off again gastrointestinal signs in addition to itchiness, a food allergy will certainly be at the top of the list of potential problems. However, a food allergy can’t be ruled out just because his or her GI tract seems to be functioning normally.

Myth: I’ve changed my pet’s food several times and he’s still itchy, so he can’t have a food allergy.
Fact: There can be two different reasons that these diet trials have not worked:

1. Dogs or cats are allergic to specific ingredients, such as chicken, not the brand or type of food. Make sure to closely look at the ingredient list, most contain multiple types of protein sources (although they are all not advertised on the front of the bag). You also have to make sure you look at the treats you are giving, and their ingredients as well! Please come visit us so we can talk about which foods and treats we recommend for a diet trial, and how to perform one effectively!
2. Another reason can be that your pet isn’t allergic to his food at all! It’s actually a lot more common that pets are allergic to things in the environment- such as dust, pollen or mold!

Don’t hesitate to call us at Acadia Veterinary Hospital to chat further about food allergies or your itchy pet!

Written by Acadia Veterinary Hospital