The Right Diet and Lifestyle for an Allergic Pet
An allergic pet may suffer from excessive itching, watering of the eyes, diarrhea, or many other symptoms. An allergic dog or cat may be in chronic discomfort, so a worried pet owner will try any number of things to alleviate their pet’s distressing symptoms. These may include trying different medications and diets or switching shampoos.
Nutrition is a big factor in helping many allergic pets. The important thing is to understand your pet’s allergies, including food allergies, and the impact of diet and lifestyle.
Dealing with Pet Allergies
Allergies in pets can come from multiple sources: airborne sources, like molds, pollen, and dust; flea bites; food; and contact allergens, such as an allergy to chemicals used in carpet. Many pets who suffer from allergies are sensitive to foods, and most likely animal protein. Dogs, in particular, are often allergic to beef, chicken, soy, wheat, and other ingredients in pet food.
Food sensitivities can lead to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, and also scratching, chewing, and skin-related problems. More than one-third of allergic pets react to more than one thing, which might include dust and pollen, as well as beef and dairy. A pet that is sensitive to more than one allergen can have a variety of allergic reactions.
The only way to know what your pet is allergic to is to go through the careful process of elimination, removing one ingredient at a time for a few weeks to see if things improve. Your veterinarian should help you design an elimination diet and how long your pet will be on it. You may also order additional allergy testing, including blood work, saliva and hair analysis, and exposure to small samples of various allergens to see if they are reactive.
Understanding Allergy-Friendly Pet Diets
There are many products out there that claim to be hypoallergenic or allergy-free. Sadly, there is no pure hypoallergenic diet. Along with this, “gluten-free” is sometimes erroneously linked to being allergy-friendly. More pets are allergic to beef, dairy, and eggs rather than wheat. So, don’t make the leap to a grain-free pet food without first knowing the source of your pet’s itches and sneezes.
There are diets that can better support a dog or cat with allergies.
- Look for real, whole foods in the ingredients, avoiding dyes, preservatives, and other artificial additives.
- Prescription diets, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet for Food/Skin Sensitivities, can be ordered through your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.
- Get to know food labels so you can quickly identify items that are allergic for your pet.
Ambitious pet owners who want to make their pet food at home can rely on a few different sources, if not currently consulting with a pet nutritionist.
- Petdiets.com — Dr. Rebecca Remillard formulates balanced, homemade diet recipes for pet owners and has been doing it for over 30 years. Her website is a treasure-trove of information/education, including FAQ and recipe requests for a reasonable $25.
- BalanceIt.com is run by Dr. Sean Delaney (based out of CA) who offers nutritious, homemade diet recipes for pet owners. He also has a patented all-in-one vitamin-mineral supplements that he sells at his website.
Allergy-Friendly Pet Lifestyle
You can be proactive in helping relieve allergies by changing a few things in your pet’s day-to-day routine and in the home.
- Reduce allergens in the home with quality HEPA air filters.
- Wipe off your pet’s feet and legs each time they go out with a warm, damp washcloth.
- Vacuum and dust regularly, including cleaning upholstery and drapes.
- Change your pet’s bedding weekly and launder with hypoallergenic detergent.
- Consider removing wall-to-wall carpet and replacing with wood or tile floors, which are easier to clean and don’t attract allergens.
- Keep your pet on a flea and tick preventative, since flea bites trigger allergies in many pets, and they are also carriers of disease.
- Minimize your pet’s exposure to harsh chemicals, perfumes, and dyes.
Have Questions About Your Allergic Pet?
If you are concerned about your pet’s diet or have questions about allergy-friendly choices, please contact your friends at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services.