New and different ingredients can help ease your concerns about food allergies in your dog and/or cat.
A walk down the dog or cat food aisle at your local pet store can reveal a multitude of unusual ingredients. Labels run the gamut from lamb to salmon to turkey, with appearances by bison, rabbit, venison, duck and even kangaroo, ostrich and unagi (eel). Some pet foods also state that they include a single protein ingredient, from the more common (such as turkey) to the more unusual ones already mentioned (and that list certainly isn’t complete).
Why the variety on the pet food aisles? The simple answer is food allergies, although many owners want to feed their pets a certain type of protein for a multitude of reasons. Typically, however, the novel proteins in specially formulated dog and cat foods can help owners eliminate ingredients that might be causing allergy-related symptoms in their pets.
Those symptoms include licking, chewing, and scratching patches of their skin so much that it leads to sores. Your pet may also show gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, diarrhea or vomiting. While it is up to a veterinarian to make an official diagnosis of food allergies, manufacturers are responding to pet owner concerns by introducing a variety of novel protein diets.
If your dog or cat is diagnosed with a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity, your vet will likely recommend that you switch your pet to a novel protein diet (also sometimes called a “limited-ingredient” diet). A novel diet typically contains a single protein source and a single carbohydrate source. The idea is to feed your pet a food that does not contain the likely culprits of food allergies and does not contain ingredients that he has eaten before. This is when a careful review of the food’s label comes into play: While the main ingredient might be listed as salmon, some foods could include potential allergens, such as beef, chicken, dairy products or wheat.
During this food trial, it is important not to feed your pet treats that might include the same ingredients found in his previous diet. A food trial typically lasts about 3 months, during which time you and your vet will work together to see if the allergy symptoms diminish and (hopefully) subside completely.
Sometimes the food trial needs to be repeated until a suitable protein source (or carbohydrate source, or both) are identified. Knowing that novel proteins are not always easy to find, pet food manufacturers have responded in the last few years by introducing more options for pet owners—both dog owners and cat owners.
If your pet happily eats his current diet without showing signs of food intolerance or sensitivity, you probably should continue to feed it. If, however, you suspect he might have an allergy, talk to your vet about switching to a novel protein or limited ingredient diet to help eliminate the condition’s source .