My cat seems to be scratching a lot lately. I thought it could be fleas but I’m not seeing any signs. What else could it be?
Over the past few weeks I have discussed the causes of pruritus (itching) in our pets. The most common cause of itching and scratching is allergies. Today we will discuss how food allergies can contribute to pruritus.
In pets with food allergies, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to substances that it would normally tolerate. This excessive response is termed an allergic reaction.
The most common food allergens are proteins from dairy products and beef. However, proteins such as gluten from wheat, chicken, fish, other substances and additives can also cause allergic reactions. A common misconception is that corn products routinely cause allergies in pets, when studies have actually shown that corn very rarely at fault.
Overall, true food allergies in pets are actually quite rare. Most veterinary dermatologists think they might account for as little as 2% of all allergies.
How is the condition it diagnosed?
Pets are placed on hypoallergenic diets that contain none of the ingredients that the pet has eaten in the past. The food elimination diet must be continued for up to three months to determine if the pet actually has food allergy. Since the pets can have nothing else to eat (no human food, treats or rawhides are allowed), this can be a difficult process for pets and their owners. After a pet has been diagnosed with food allergies, there are a number of commercially available, treats and palatable hypoallergenic diets that can be fed for the rest of your pet’s life.
Thomas Schaeberle, VMD