Monday, January 11, 2010

Question: Food Allergies

Dr. Schaeberle,

I think my dog has allergies. How do I find out what he is allergic to?



Hi Robert,

Last year we had a question on a similar topic regarding allergies in pets. Dogs and cats with show typical signs or allergies such as a feet and belly licking, leg chewing, face rubbing and secondary ear infections. In the winter, most seasonal allergies caused by grass, molds, and pollens are finally over. However, just this week I saw a number of pets still scratching. These pets are either allergic to indoor items such as dust mites and human dander, or they may have a food allergy.

Over the years veterinary dermatologists continue to debate whether or not food allergies are a major cause of scratching in pets. Some dermatologists place the percentages of food allergies in pets only at 1 to 2%, while others think it may be well over 10%. However it is agreed by both veterinarian and pet owner, that this is a very frustrating problem to diagnose. Ultimately success can be found in treating pets with food allergies with a little time and patience.

The winter is a excellent time to test for food allergies. Unfortunately, there is no reliable blood test and we rely on a “food elimination diet”. Most food allergies are caused by proteins in pet food that can include chicken, beef, fish and milk. With the food elimination diet, we place the pet either on a protein they have never had before such as a rabbit or a diet that includes single amino acids, an allergen free protein source. It can take up to 3 months to see improvement, so patience is very important. If the client feels there is an improvement after 8 weeks, we reintroduce the original diet and if the scratching resumes, we have a tentative diagnosis of a food allergy. Our goal from that point on is to find which proteins are causing the problem and eliminate them from the diet to keep the pet healthy and happy.

There are only 3 hospitals in the York Area accredited by the AAHA. The Shiloh Veterinary Hospital in Dover, Shiloh Veterinary Hospital East in Manchester and Patton Veterinary Hospital in Red Lion.

Dr. Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

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