Food allergy is one of the the potential causes of skin disease in dogs and cats. In cases where food allergy is suspected, your veterinarian will want to perform a food trial. The food trial will help diagnose the food allergy. At the same time, it will also treat the allergy, if the trial is effective.
Choosing a Food for a Dog or Cat with a Suspected Food Allergy
A food trial involves feeding your dog or cat a diet containing a protein and a carbohydrate source that he has never eaten before. These are some of the considerations that should be taken into account when you are choosing a food for your pet.
- Knowing what your pet has eaten in the past will help in deciding what diet is best.
- The diet for the food trial may be home-cooked or it may be a commercially available food.
- Protein sources frequently used in a food trial include fish, salmon, duck, kangaroo, and egg.
- Carbohydrates that may be used include potato, sweet potato, peas, oats and barley.
Performing a Food Trial to Diagnose Canine or Feline Food Allergy
You must continue a feeding trial for at least 6-8 weeks before you can determine for certain whether the diet is working or not. You may see results sooner, but in some cases, it does take 8 weeks for the symptoms to start to improve.
While on a feeding trial, it is important not to feed your pet any other foods, such as treats or flavored medications.
If the feeding trial works, your dog should stop scratching and become much more comfortable.
If your pet improves when on the feeding trial, that may mean that food allergies were the cause of the itchiness. However, coincidence still cannot be ruled out. In order to confirm that your pet is allergic to a specific food, you would need to start feeding the original diet again. If the scratching starts again, that is strong evidence that the food is responsible for the allergy. The problem is that you may not want to make your pet itchy again by reintroducing the original food. Many pet owners choose to continue feeding the trial diet instead.
Continuing Treatment for Food Allergy in Dogs and Cats
Once the food trial is completed and it has been determined that your pet is indeed suffering from a food allergy, you will need to decide whether to continue to feed the trial diet or to change the diet.
Many pet owners decide to simply continue feeding the diet used in the food trial. In most cases, this is a good choice because the diet has already been proven to be effective. However, if you are feeding a home-cooked meal, it is important to work with your veterinarian to make sure that the diet is balanced and complete. If it is not, your dog or cat may suffer from nutritional imbalances and become ill as a result.
if you decide not to continue the food trial diet, it is possible to add ingredients to the diet one at a time, watching for signs of the return of the symptoms of food allergy. By introducing ingredients that may potentially cause allergy one at a time, it may be possible to identify the exact ingredient in food that causes the allergy and avoid it in the future. However, it should be remembered that some dogs and cats may be allergic to more than one ingredient.
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