How to tell if your pet has a food sensitivity.

Even when you’re committed to providing your pet with the healthiest nutrition possible, there is always the possibility that he or she may be sensitive to an ingredient in their food. Sometimes this can result in an allergic reaction, with symptoms like rashes, ear infections and more. Other times, it can turn out to be a food intolerance resulting in gastrointestinal or digestive problems.

Understanding all that you can about food sensitivities— the causes, symptoms, etc.—can go a long way to helping solve the problem for your pet.One thing is for sure, with 14 million dogs alone in the United States having food sensitivity, pet parents need to carefully consider what they feed their furry friends.

Food allergies

It can be difficult to determine what is causing an allergy in your pet. Some causes are seasonal, like dust, weeds, pollen, etc. Often times fleas are the culprit. If the allergic symptoms per sist throughout the year and are not confined to cer tain seasons, it can point to a food allergy.

What makes a food allergy different—and so hard to identify—is that it typically requires time to develop. Pet parents sometimes think that the development of a food allergy is caused by a new food. In fact, if your dog or cat has an immediate adverse reaction to a new food it is probably not an allergic reaction, because it takes more than one exposure to an allergen to produce a reaction.

Making the issue even more confusing, is that the symptoms of food allergies are often similar to those of other allergies, including:

  • Skin irritation
  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Ear infections
  • Hair loss
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Hot spots that reoccur even after antibiotic or steroid treatment

Food intolerances

A food intolerance occurs when your dog or cat has trouble assimilating a par ticular ingredient in their food. This is different from an allergic reaction. The food intolerance most often presents itself as an inflammation in the intestinal tract, not an immunologic inflammation typically seen on the skin. A moderate to severe reaction in your pet can lead to a more serious condition such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), so it’s impor tant to be aware of any symptoms that may occur. These can include:

  • Stomach gurgling
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Common pet food ingredients known to trigger allergic reactions or intolerances

While some dogs or cats tolerate most ingredients with no problem, there are common pet food ingredients that have been found to pose allergy and/or intolerance issues in many pets. These include:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Food Additives
  • Artificial Preservatives
  • Animal By-products

Some pet food may contain more of these ingredients than you think because pet food manufacturers list them in various forms. Often you’ll see “ground corn”, “corn gluten” and “corn bran” listed on the ingredient label. That can add up to a lot of corn. And if your dog or cat is allergic to it, it could very easily be the source of his food sensitivity.

Dealing with a food sensitivity starts with changing your pet’s food

If your dog or cat appears to have food sensitivity, you might just try changing his or her food. Consider a high-quality, limited-ingredient diet with a protein such as turkey or fish–not chicken or beef. Limited ingredient diets are designed specifically for pets with food sensitivities because they are formulated without ingredients that have been known to cause allergies.

But to be sure that you are correctly identifying and addressing your pet’s health needs, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian.