appetite for disaster


If your dog or cat just can’t seem to stop scratching, the culprit could be in an unlikely place — her food bowl.


Pets with food allergies are often very uncomfortable. Dogs can develop itchiness all over, especially around the ears, eyes, muzzle, belly and all four feet. With cats, the face and neck are most affected and are often covered in tiny, itchy scabs.


Often, the sensitivity is to the protein portion of your pet’s food. Because allergies take time to develop, your pet could actually become allergic to something he has crunched and munched on for years. Food allergies are usually not implicated in cases where there has been a recent diet change.


season or sustenance?

Diagnosing food allergies can be a bit of a challenge. Your veterinarian will begin by ruling out other underlying conditions such as fleas and sarcoptic mange, which can also cause itchy, scabby skin. The next step is differentiating between inhaled seasonal allergies, such as pollen, and food allergies.


Your vet may ask the following questions to rule out inhaled allergies:

  • Was your pet’s skin normal before the age of four?
  • Are your pet’s symptoms present regardless of the season?
  • Are your pet’s skin issues are located in the areas described above?
  • Has your pet ever responded poorly to steroid treatment?

If your answers are “yes,” food allergies move higher up on the list of suspects.


nibble on this

To figure out just what food your pet is allergic to, your veterinarian will suggest a “food trial.” In order for it to be effective, your pet must get a new diet exclusively for at least six to eight weeks. That means no treats and no table food. Not even flavored heartworm or flea prevention can be given. This is the most important part of diagnosis and treatment — failure to follow it could end up targeting the wrong ingredient.


There are many commercially prepared foods available for your food trial and your vet will have some suggestions. Some prescription diets are formulated to be hypoallergenic, while others focus on a novel protein source. Finding a protein source that a pet has not been exposed to before may be difficult, so many of these diets get creative. For instance, if chicken or beef prove to be the problem for your dog, he could end up feasting on venison, fish, duck or even kangaroo!


If you have a multi-cat or multi-dog household, you may need to feed pets differently – and separately – to accommodate allergies. Ask your vet about the best options for feeding all your furry friends. With a little effort and persistence, both you and your pet can enjoy the sweet taste of victory over food allergies.