When Food Attacks: Food Allergies and your Pet

In last week’s post we talked about seasonal allergies in pets, how they manifest and what you can do to relieve them. So this week it seems to make sense to us to talk about another moderately common allergic reaction in cats and dogs: food intolerance and allergies. Turns out, 10-15% of domesticated cats and dogs have a food allergy and many more have an intolerance. Food allergies and intolerances can make animals just as miserable as seasonal allergies can, and we’re happy to say that pet parents have options for giving their furry friend some relief. Read on to learn more.

Photo by Kevin N. Murphy/CC BY

Photo by Kevin N. Murphy/CC BY

Food Allergy or Intolerance?
Before we dive into the details about how to spot a food allergy and what you an do to relieve your pet’s symptoms, we think it’s important to talk about true food allergies, food intolerance, and the difference between the two conditions. A food allergy occurs when a pet’s immune system overreacts to a compound that she has digested. Thus, the resulting symptoms are caused by the body mounting an attack on itself. A food intolerance is caused by a pet’s inability to adequately digest a food that she’s eaten. Food allergies and intolerances may share the same symptoms in some cases and may even be treated through similar methods, but allergies and intolerance often manifest themselves in different ways.

What Could my Pet be Allergic to?
While your pet can develop an allergy to almost any food, proteins and carbohydrates are the most common. For instance, your pet might develop an allergy to chicken, beef or corn. The bad news is that the kinds of compounds that cause the most frequent allergies in pets are also widely used in pet foods. Many lower-quality pet foods may contain a mixture of several different meats or grains, making it hard to distinguish what is specifically causing your pet’s discomfort. However, the good news is that higher quality foods come with fewer ingredients and additives, so it can be easier to determine what food is the culprit and then purchase other food options to avoid it in the future.

Diagnosing a Food Allergy or Intolerance
A food allergy in a dog or cat can develop at any age and for any ingredient in their diet. In order for the allergy to begin manifesting itself, your pet must have had prior exposure to the allergen. Through repeated exposure, your pet’s immune system creates a stronger and stronger reaction to the compound, eventually leading to symptoms that you can see.

Diagnosing a food allergy on your own is very tricky because allergic reactions to environmental compounds – such as pollen that causes seasonal allergies – cause quite similar symptoms to allergic reactions from foods. The allergic response typically manifests itself in your pet’s head first, causing the ears to begin having a buildup of wax and different parts of the head to itch. Other parts of the body will also eventually start to itch, particularly the neck, paws, trunk, and anal area. As the reaction increases in severity, a rash can occur on the itchy parts of the skin. The rash may become infected if it isn’t treated with antibiotics.

Photo by Vato Bob/CC BY

Photo by Vato Bob/CC BY

If the itching becomes overwhelming to your pet, she will start scratching or chewing the affected area. Pets can scratch or chew with such intensity that they cause the irritated patches to turn into sores that might bleed and perpetuate infection. Sadly, this allergic cycle and the accompanying itching and sores can lead to a fairly miserable existence for an untreated pet.

As we discussed a minute ago, food allergies and intolerance often manifest in different ways. An intolerance occurs when your pet lacks the enzymes in her digestive tract to properly digest what she has eaten. Food intolerance will often result in digestive complications such as vomiting or diarrhea. If your pet’s exposure to the offending food item is a one-time incident, the vomiting and/or diarrhea might be very short lived and clear up quickly on it’s own. But prolonged exposure will cause prolonged illness in your furry friend that could lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and a variety of other issues.

If you think your pet might have a food allergy – or any other kind of allergy or intolerance – it is important that you meet with her veterinarian to get a professional opinion and discuss treatment options. Vets can also prescribe medications to clear up the itchy patches – or hot spots- that occur on the skin as well as infections of the skin and ears. This professional oversight is necessary both to prescribe medications that can give your pet some relief, but also to insure that your pet isn’t dealing with some other health complication that just looks like it could be allergies.

What you can do to Help Fido and Fluffy
Aside from medications that can be used to clear acute infections of the skin, there are no medicines that relieve allergies in your dog or cat. The answer is in determining what the offending substance is and never feeding it to Fido or Fluffy again. So if a food allergy is suspected, your vet will recommend an isolation diet. Isolation diets are about as straightforward as they sound. They begin by you severely limiting your pet’s exposure to as many foods as possible. Diets such as lamb and rice or chicken and potato are prescribed and can be cooked by you as you would normally prepare them for yourself… but without any seasonings. There are also several hypoallergenic prescription diets available that your vet may recommend. If your pet’s allergic reaction clears up on this simple diet, that means she’s not allergic to what you’re feeding her. You can then start adding back foods to increase the nutritional diversity of her diet. The key, however, is to introduce only one food item at a time and wait a sufficient period after each reintroduction to make sure that the allergies don’t return. If a reaction occurs when you try adding back a specific food, you’ll know that’s the one you need to avoid going forward. While you’re feeding the isolation diet, be very careful not to give your pet any treats or chews that contain ingredients other than what you’re giving for her primary meals. The foods in these items could contain the allergen and thus confuse and prolong the process of discovering the items responsible for the allergy.

Seasonal Allergies – Your Pets can get them too!

Have the coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and watery eyes set in among the human members of your family. This time of year, many folks endure a little bit of short term misery as the flowers bloom and the spring winds kick up dust. While it seems a bit ironic since they’re often the source of allergic reactions, pets can experience seasonal allergies as well! In fact, they can feel downright miserable like we can as the pollen count climbs. In this post we’ll discuss the impacts of seasonal allergies on dogs and cats, the ways you spot allergy-related symptoms, and how you can help relieve your pet of the discomfort associated with them.

Photo by kittenishkitten/CC BY

Photo by kittenishkitten/CC BY

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Off-leash Etiquette for you and your Canine Companion

As we near the end of a long chilly and snowy season, the promise of lighter evenings and warmer, drier days is getting everyone at BNAH excited to visit Colorado’s trails and beautiful wilderness areas. Hiking or running on open lands is a great way to relieve stress, get some physical activity, and clear your mind. The majority of Colorado’s open areas also permit you to bring your favorite canine friend along so he or she can enjoy nature with you and get some exercise. Many of these places also permit your dog to be off-leash. In this post we’ll discuss the pros and cons of off-leash activities on trails and in open spaces, and we’ll also give you some helpful tips for making your off-leash experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Photo by Kevin Severud/CC BY

Photo by Kevin Severud/CC BY

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Preventing and Treating Pet Dental Problems

Dental health is a much overlooked but incredibly important aspect of your furry friend’s wellness. Because some pet parents’ tend to be undereducated or just de-prioritize their pet’s dental care, dental related health conditions are among the most common ailments seen by veterinarians. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly 85% of adult dogs and cats have some form of dental illness or complication. Complications resulting from poor dental hygiene in pets can range from mild discomfort to tooth loss and even heart failure. Therefore, at BNAH we provide frequent pet-ucation to our human clients on the importance of dental health maintenance in their furry friends. We also offer state-of-the art routine dental care at our hospital and can make referrals to excellent specialists in the event that they’re needed. In this post we’ll discuss some of the most common types of dental complications in dogs and cats, when to contact your veterinarian, and how you can help your pet avoid them in the first place.

Photo by Owen Prior/CC BY

Photo by Owen Prior/CC BY

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The Basics of Pet Insurance and Tips on Selecting a Plan

As the field of veterinary medicine continues to advance, we are able to offer increasingly sophisticated methods of treatment to help prolong the health and happy life of your favorite furry friend. For instance, vets can now conduct MRI scans and administer chemotherapy to dogs and cats in need. However, with these technical and medical advancements in treatment comes increased costs. In 2013, pet parents spent $14.4 billion on veterinary care, an increase of 54% since 2006. The rising cost of care has caused many people to look for options to help them manage the costs of Fido or Fluffy’s care, from routine examinations to unplanned surgeries. But unlike the people insurance industry, there aren’t pet insurance agents available to help guide you through the process of selecting the right kind of coverage and carrier for your needs. If pet insurance has been in your mind but you’re not sure where to start and want to learn more, this blog post is for you.

dog at vet

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Fur the Love of your Pet’s Coat

The first day of spring is just one week away! As you begin to see the hints of a warmer weather on the horizon, you may have also noticed an increase in your dog or cat’s shedding. Those clumps of hair all over the house (and getting matted in your pet’s fur) can really be a drag. So we’re taking this opportunity to discuss your pet’s coat a fur as well as the underlying skin and how you can keep it healthy and well groomed, thus cutting back on fur-covered furniture, floors, and clothes and the side effects of such a problem. So put your lint roller down for just a minute and read on.

Photo by controltheweb/ CC BY

Photo by controltheweb/ CC BY

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What you Need to Know about Canine Parvovirus

You may have heard about ‘parvo’ or parvovirus in dogs, particularly if you’ve owned a puppy. Parvo is a highly contagious, resilient virus that can take hold quickly within a dog of any age and cause severe illness or even death. In fact, parvo is one of the more deadly viruses in dogs. To make things even more complicated, it’s also fairly prevalent in most parts of the country. In this post we’ll give you the facts about canine parvovirus and teach you how to best defend your canine companion from this nasty bug.

Photo by smerikal/ CC BY

Photo by smerikal/ CC BY

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Caring for your Pet During the Spring Months

It’s almost March, and that means that – with any luck – a winter which has been extra harsh for many people across the country is about to come to an end. We are so excited to get out with our pets and enjoy the sunshine, blooming flowers, and dry hiking paths! As the cold months start to transition into the warmer ones, our minds are turning to that pesky (but fulfilling) spring cleaning session. It’s very refreshing to clear out some of the cobwebs and dispel cabin fever. As you sort through your closets and make your other preparations for spring, we invite you to participate in a few activities with your pet that will help him or her get of on the right paw this spring as well. Read on for some timely suggestions and tips.

puppy and flower

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Say What? The Lowdown on your Cat’s Ears

Cats never cease us to impress us with their athleticism, funny moods, and silly eccentricities. There’s so much complexity in our feline friends and those of us who own cats know that they really are just as impressive as they are cute. Every part of a cat from nose to tail is covered in nerves and capable of experiencing health complications. In this post we’ll discuss a cat’s ears, including all their cool characteristics as well as how to keep them in ship shape and what signs of illness you want to be on the lookout for. So listen up!

Photo by aesedepece/ CC BY

Photo by aesedepece/ CC BY

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Perfect Gifts for your Favorite Dog Lover

Valentines day is tomorrow! Have you picked out a gift for your special someone? Maybe you’ve got Cupid’s Day all taken care of but your favorite dog lover is having a birthday soon. Or maybe you just plan really far ahead for the holidays! Regardless of your reasons and timing, we thought you’d enjoy a list of gift giving suggestions for the dog lovers in your life. Here are some ideas, both traditional and unique, compliments of BNAH!

Man and Dog

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