Mediaplanet: How common are food sensitivities in pets?

Dr. Jennifer Adolphe: Food allergies seem to be on the rise. They are the third most common allergy after flea bites and environmental allergies.

MP: What are the signs of food sensitivities or allergies in pets?

JA: The primary symptom is itchy skin, but also include chronic vomiting, diarrhea, paw licking, and persistent ear infections.

MP: Which components in food cause reactions?

JA: Most food allergens are proteins. Factors to consider when choosing a food for an intolerant pet are the number of different proteins it has, the protein source, and whether the pet has been previously exposed to the protein.

MP: How are food sensitivities diagnosed in pets?

JA: Blood and skin patch testing are available to help identify foods that may be causing adverse reactions, but do not always provide a definitive answer. The gold standard for diagnosis is a food elimination trial. An elimination diet is a specialized diet that excludes all ingredients that may be the cause of the food sensitivity. Once a diet is found that resolves the symptoms, the suspect ingredients can be introduced one at a time to see if symptoms reappear. When conducting a food trial, it’s important to remember that the new food must be the only thing the pet eats for 12 weeks. This means no treats — just the new food and water.

MP: How should a pet parent treat symptoms brought on by a food sensitivities?

JA: If you suspect a food sensitivity, transition to a limited ingredient diet and consult your veterinarian for further guidance.