Food allergies and skin issues in pets

Continuing with our allergy discussion, today’s article is about skin issues caused by food allergies (food allergy dermatitis). Three year old Pearl is our feature pet, and has been trying different hypoallergenic foods and concurrent treatments to address her skin issues, itching and diarrhea.

What is food allergy dermatitis?

  • Food allergy dermatitis is typically associated with a hypersensitivity to dietary ingredients
  • The most common food allergens are protein sources (especially chicken and beef), but any ingredient can cause a reaction
  • There may be gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea as well as skin inflammation

What are the clinical signs?

  • Itchiness (chewing, licking, scratching), hair loss
  • Ear infections, anal gland problems (scooting)
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Saliva staining of feet (feet appear pink)
  • No seasonal pattern with symptoms
  • Can appear at any age, starting as early as 6 months
  • Common locations: Ears (infections, ear tip scabbing/vasculitis), feet, perianal area.

How is food allergy dermatitis diagnosed?

  • Often diagnosed by ruling out other causes, based on history, exam and response to trial treatments
  • Other causes with similar symptoms include infections, parasitic infestations, atopic dermatitis (environmental allergies) and underlying systemic disease (such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease)
  • Testing such as skin and ear cytology, hair plucks, skin biopsies, food trials
  • Blood work and urinalysis to assess overall health and assist with a diagnosis may be recommended
  • Skin allergy testing can be offered by a dermatologist, but it cannot definitively diagnose the condition
  • Blood allergy testing is not reliable

How is food allergy dermatitis treated?

  • * Diet therapy is the mainstay of treatment to avoid dietary triggers
  • Multiple trials may be necessary to find a diet that works
  • New diets should be continued for 6-8 weeks to fully assess response. No additional treats or human foods can be given as even a small amount of an allergen can cause ongoing symptoms
  • Options for diet trials include novel protein sources such as kangaroo, alligator, pork, venison, fish, rabbit or vegetarian diets. It is important to pick a diet your pet has not been exposed to before
  • Other options include hydrolyzed diets where the protein molecules are broken up to reduce immune reactions or use experimental proteins such as feather protein.
  • Secondary infections must be treated to resolve clinical signs
  • Flare ups can be managed with shampoos, topical creams/sprays and oral steroids/immunosuppressive medications.

If you think your pet may have a food allergy, please contact us and we would be happy to help diagnose and treate their allergies (or other conditions causing their symptoms) to get them feeling better!

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Roncy Village Veterinary Clinic

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