A few weeks ago, we began a two-part series on Food Related Pet Allergies. You can read Part I here. In Part II we want to discuss the most common treatment to aid in the diagnosis of a food allergy called the elimination diet.
The Elimination Diet
In order to determine what food(s) might be at the root of your pet’s allergy (or food reaction, which is non-allergic but physical reaction to certain foods), you begin by making a complete change in their diet. You stop feeding the foods you have been feeding and provide completely different foods.
This is not simply a change in brands, but a change to the proteins and carbohydrates contained in the food. Start by reading your pet’s food label to see what proteins and carbs they are eating. If your current food is chicken based with corn meal, then you stop feeding them anything with chicken or corn. You must also eliminate the proteins and carbs in their treats, so if you feed treats that are beef based then you stop feeding anything containing chicken, corn or beef. You can also utilize Petnet's pet food rating system to see just how "healthy" your pet's food rates according to our analysis.
It’s important you carefully monitor anything they put in their mouth, so be sure and also stop feeding things like pig’s ears or kong’s with peanut butter. You must restrict their diet to ingredients their system has not encountered before. That is the key to the elimination diet, anything they eat is “novel” , something they have not been fed before.
There are many commercially prepared foods for this purpose, but it requires diligence on the owner’s part to know what proteins and carbs are in the food they’ve been eating and carefully reading the labels on their new food to ensure those proteins and carbs are not introduced. You continue with this diet for at least 12 weeks to totally flush their system of the harmful allergens. Make sure you keep them away from table scraps, other pet’s food bowls and watch them carefully outdoors too as many pets can get into garbage or horse/cow dung.
Once their system has been cleansed by this special elimination diet, you can slowly start to add those eliminated ingredients back into their diet to see if their allergic reaction recurs. It usually takes at least a few days for the allergens to react in their system, so be certain to give it time. It’s also critical that you introduce only one new ingredient at a time so that you can isolate and identify the culprit.
Do not to stop the trial once you’ve found one ingredient they react to. There may be several, so continue introducing the ingredients until you’ve reintroduced everything they were formerly eating and identified all potential sources of the allergy. Once completed with the reintroduction process, you will know what foods to eliminate completely from their diet in order to alleviate their allergic reaction.
Preventing Food Allergies
It certainly would be easier to just prevent food allergies from arising in your pet. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. What you can do for them is promote good digestive health in your pet. Feeding a good quality food that contains whole proteins and a limited number of processed filler ingredients like ‘meal’ or chemical sounding things you can’t pronounce, will help keep stomach issues at bay.
It can also be helpful to try a rotation diet to prevent food allergies or food reactions. A rotation diet is one that changes the key protein sources that you feed your pet over time, essentially rotating which proteins they get every few months. This strategy can be effective in two ways. First, it reduces the possibility of a pet’s body developing a food reaction due to feeding the same exact protein for extended periods of time. Second, by changing up a pet’s diet, it helps their digestive system become used to a variety of food choices instead of the same food every day, which can lead to overall better nutrition and a stronger digestive system in general.
Do your best to keep your pet’s food choices simple and straightforward and read the labels so you know exactly what you are feeding your beloved pet.