Let’s talk food allergies
The most common allergens responsible for food allergies are certain proteins found in beef, chicken, wheat and milk. Often the food has been part of their diet for a long time. Symptoms can appear at any age, but usually they are first seen in 1-year-old pets. Symptoms from food allergy are usually present throughout the year (not just in a particular season).
Food allergy symptoms
The symptoms of food allergy are basically the same as for atopy (environmental allergy). Itching and scratching are most common, leading to scratching, biting and chewing of the skin, excessive paw licking, face rubbing and grooming, possibly with hair loss and recurrent ear or skin infections.
The usual locations of the itchiness are the belly, the feet, the base of the tail and the face, especially around the eyes, mouth and ears. Occasionally your pet may have watery eyes, and sneeze or cough.
As well as these symptoms, between 10% and 15% of pets with a food allergy have gastrointestinal complaints, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal discomfort.
Identifying food allergies
How to tell if your pet has food allergies
The only way to know if your pet is allergic to food is by doing a food elimination test. This means giving your pet a new, simpler diet for 6-8 weeks to see if the symptoms improve, then giving the old diet again to see if the symptoms come back. If this happens, then it confirms that your pet is allergic to something in their food.
During that 6–8-week period, it is very important that your pet does not eat any treats, snacks, medications or supplements. It should only eat the new diet.
It is difficult to know which new diet to give, because most commercial pet foods contain a mixture of different foods. Often, they do not list all the ingredients on the label, so you might think that you pet is eating a pure duck diet, but small amounts of chicken or beef might be in there too. This is why we made the Next+ Food Test, which indicates precisely which food ingredients are suitable for your pet to eat.
Next+ Food Test (for dogs)
The Next+ Food Test looks for 23 different of the most relevant food components, including proteins in meats like beef and chicken, and carbohydrates in rice and vegetables like potato and peas, all of which are very common in commercial pet foods.
The test is carried out by a vet, who will take a small sample of blood from your dog and send it to our laboratory for analysis. We will look for antibodies against the different food components.
If the level of antibodies is below a certain value, it means that your pet is not over-reacting to them and therefore they are suitable for their new long-term diet.Read more
What if my pet has food allergies?
What you can do if your pet has allergic to food
Unfortunately, there are no medical treatments or anything you can give your pet to stop its food allergies. The only treatment is strict avoidance of the food and its ingredients. You should also stop giving your pet any treats, left-overs, flavoured medications or supplements that contain those ingredients.
Environmental allergy (atopy)
Most pets with food allergy also have environmental allergies
Most pets that are allergic to food are also allergic to environmental allergens such as pollens, mites and dander. Environmental allergies are known as atopy (or atopic dermatitis), and are one of the most common types of allergy in pets. If your pet is allergic to food and also has atopy, even controlling their diet after a food-elimination test, will not stop all their symptoms.
In this case, your vet will perform a Next+ Blood Test to identify which environmental allergens are responsible. The good thing about atopy is that there is an effective treatment, called immunotherapy, which can strengthen your pet’s immune system and stop it over-reacting to the environmental allergens.
Immunotherapy is tailored to your pet and aims to stop allergic symptoms from affecting its health, comfort and quality of life. There is only one licensed immunotherapy in Europe – Artuvetrin® Therapy (Directive 2004/28/EC).Read more