Food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in cats and dogs.
The entire process of a pet being sensitized to a particular agent in food and the complicated antibody response that occurs in the intestinal tract in pets with food allergies are not very well understood. Despite our lack of understanding of the actual disease process, there are many things that we do know.
Food allergies affect both cats and dogs. There is no strong link between specific breeds and food allergies. Food allergies affect both males and females and neutered and intact animals equally. They can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age, though the vast majority of cases occur between 2 and 6 years. Many animals with food allergies also have concurrent inhalant or contact allergies.
There is a distinction that needs to be made between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are true allergies and show the characteristic symptoms of itching and skin problems associated with feline and canine allergies. Food intolerances can result in diarrhea or vomiting and do not create a typical allergic response. Food intolerances in pets would be similar to people that get diarrhea or an upset stomach from eating spicy or fried foods. Fortunately, both food intolerances and allergies can be eliminated with a diet free from offending agents.
Several studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause food allergies than others. In cats, the most common offenders are fish, beef, and dairy products. As you may have noticed, the most common offenders are the most common ingredients in both cat and dog foods. This correlation is not a coincidence. While some proteins might be slightly more antigenic than others, many proteins are similar in form and the incidence of allergic reactions are probably associated with the amount of exposure.
The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most other allergies seen in cats. The primary symptom is itchy skin. Symptoms may also include hair loss, excessive scratching, and miliary dermatitis.
It is difficult to distinguish an animal suffering from food allergies from an animal suffering from allergies based on physical signs. However, there are a few signs that always signal food allergies. If ayour pet suffers from allergies year-round or if symptoms begin in the winter, it's highly likely that it is a food allergy. Cats may develop very itchy skin which does not respond to antihistamines or steroid treatment.
A high quality diet, as opposed to feeding commercial brand foods, can also help reduce food allergies.
(resources - peteducation.com)
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