Since discovering that our German Wirehaired Pointer, Waylon, has food sensitivities, I get asked all the time whether a particular “symptom” is indicative of a dog or cat food sensitivity. So I’ve decided to devote this week to the topic.
Here is a list of some of the most common symptoms:
- Itching: According to Vin.com, “food allergy is one of the itchiest conditions known to cat and dog.” For Waylon, the itching seemed to be his nature, since we had only adopted him in January. First, with treatment we had ruled out flea allergy and sarcoptic mange. Next, to our dismay, he was put on steroids in case of seasonal allergies. Finally, we switched vets and Dr. Morris of the San Francisco Pet Hospital was very willing to work with us in exploring the idea of food allergies.
- Limb Chewing: With Waylon’s itching came the chewing. His paws were raw from all the biting, and he’d even pulled out the hair from his entire lower half. A pet with a hairless paws or stomach may be a pet with food allergies.
- Recurrent Ear Infections: If you are constantly making trips to the vet over recurrent yeast infections in your pet’s ears, it may be time to talk to your vet about the possibility of food allergies.
- Gastrointestinal Distress: One of the most tell-tale signs that something’s not right between your pet and his food is gastrointestinal distress, such as gas, vomiting and diarrhea. In Waylon’s case, his stool was never fully formed, and to me, this meant food sensitivities. I even created an entire spreadsheet based on how his stool looked while eating a particular food. And don’t forget the treats, most treats contain common pet allergens, so if you really want to know what’s going on, try using your pet’s food as treats as well.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, and your pet has been tested or treated for sarcoptic mange, seasonal allergies, or flea allergies, you should talk to your vet about cat or dog food allergies.
If your vet is unwilling to listen or take this possibility seriously, it may be time to switch vets. It was not until Waylon was a bald-tummied pup with unresponsive Giardia and a stomach ulcer after steroid treatment, that I, in tears, called up Dr. Morris’ office and asked for an appointment.
Dr. Morris spent an hour and a half with us and Waylon that first day. And he even gave me his e-mail address, urging me to keep him posted on any progress. At that point, I don’t think that I would have given me my e-mail address–I was a nervous new “dog momma” with a pup whose ailments had, as yet, been unresponsive.
That second day after feeding Waylon Primal Pet Foods’ Raw Duck Formula I was ecstatic when he had his first ever normal bowel movement. Dr. Morris was supportive all the while and encouraged me to remain patient with his itching. And right on cue, around six weeks (as Dr. Morris had suggested), Waylon’s itching began quickly subsiding.
My spreadsheet of the different foods that we had tried for Waylon and his tummy’s reaction was what eventually led us to the discovery that Waylon is sensitive to beef and gluten. And without ELISA Tek’s EZ Gluten Test Kits, I would have never known that many of the “gluten free” foods that we’d tried for him did in fact contain gluten, sometimes in high levels.
Some of the most common food allergens in cats and dogs include beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk. If your pet is food sensitive, you may consider switching to a raw food or home cooked diet, as in most commercial brands that I tested, the products were cross-contaminated. You can find home recipes online, or most Whole Foods Markets carry Primal Pet Foods. For allergy-free dog treats, Waylon loves Biscuits by Lambchop, and owner/founder, Annette Frey, who is a great and knowledgeable resource when it comes to dog food allergies is always there to answer any questions or offer her expertise.
Remember that food allergies in pets can pop up at any time, at any age. And they are usually a result of your cat or dog eating the same food or proteins for many years. So even if “it’s always worked just fine,” it may now be a problem.
If you suspect that your pet is food sensitive, please consult your vet for the best plan of action.