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Food intolerance (food allergies) in dogs and cats





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What are the most common food allergens? 

Clinical tests of IgE allergies in 313 cats and dogs at CRVC revealed the top food allergens to be: corn, wheat, soy, yeast, potato and beet. These common allergens are foods these patients should avoid during a 90-day food elimination trial. We suspect that food additives, colorings, and artificial preservatives also cause hypersensitivity. Dogs and cats can develop a food intolerance at an early age: from the maternal antibodies, when their immune system is depressed, following gastrointestinal illness, antigen overload (including vaccinations), or secondary to a parasite infection.

How do you diagnose food intolerance (food allergy)? 

The patient is fed a hypoallergenic diet for 60-90 days. This allows the body to become desensitized to the offending allergens. When the previous diet is fed back to the pet, an acute hypersensitivity reaction may occur. This helps to identify that a food was the source of the allergic signs. Chronic ear and skin problems are often associated with food allergies. If the patient is not making progress on a homemade diet we submit a blood sample for IgE allergy testing.

Can I still feed dog biscuits during the diet trial?

During the trial, pets should not have commercial dog treats, milk bones, rawhide chews, vitamins, supplements, heartworm or flea medications. Always check with your veterinarian before stopping medications or nutritional supplements.

What can I feed as snacks, or use as rewards?

Try pieces of boiled sweet potato, hard boiled egg, sticks of fresh vegetables, slices of fruit, frozen berries, frozen vegetables, walnuts or tahini, depending on the types of foods you are trying to exclude from the diet.

What do you recommend for a hypoallergenic diet?

There are several commercial pet foods with novel protein sources, available by prescription from veterinarians. For example, Hill's canned d/d is a fish and potato preparation; Hill's dry d/d uses egg for protein. Iams Response Formula FP (fish and potato), and some of the rabbit, turkey or duck foods are also useful for dogs with food intolerance. Ideally, fresh homemade foods should be offered. Try fish, raw seeds and nuts, egg, dry beans, lentils, or cultured dairy products such as cottage cheese or yogurt. Do not offer more than one source of protein during the elimination trial.

How do I start cooking for my dog or cat?

Prepare a stew made from vegetables, whole grains or potatoes, and a protein source. Fresh or frozen fruits, berries, vegetables, and vegetable oils are practically hypoallergenic for dogs. Make a small batch initially, then enough for a week or two at a time. Most of the stew can be frozen for later use.

What should I feed if I am home cooking?

Feed a variety of fresh foods, and avoid the suspected allergens. Make the recipe simple, using a single source of protein and carbohydrate. Hypoallergenic starches include barley, oatmeal, rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, tapioca, white or sweet potato depending on your dog or cat's exposure to these foods. For most cats and dogs a mix of 1/2 protein foods, 1/4 vegetables, and 1/4 complex carbohydrates works well. Add 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (depending on size of your pet) of raw olive or flaxseed oil to the daily meal to supply essential fatty acids. A typical portion would be one "soup can" of homemade stew for every 15-20 pounds of body weight, twice a day.


William K. Kruesi, M.S., D.V.M.  8/23/01



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