Recognizing food allergies in pets

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Food allergies in pets are more common than many might realize.

While most often found in dogs, cats and other pets can also have allergies to certain foods or ingredients. The most common symptom is itchiness or vomiting.

About 15 percent of all pet allergies are food-related, with the most common being allergic reactions to wheat, corn and sometimes shellfish in pet foods. Dogs are usually more likely to be diagnosed, but no one is sure whether it's just as common in cats and not as noticeable or if they are just less likely to have allergies.

Symptoms

Symptoms of food allergies in pets usually include excessive itching, especially to the face, feet, trunk and limbs (often one area exclusively). Increased bowel movements and soft stools are not uncommon in conjunction with this. Some animals may swell or become "puffy" around the eyes, ears and mouth.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is not always easy and usually involves reducing food to the minimum before adding in things until the culprit is found. This will require veterinary supervision, and ruling out other allergens (airborne, environmental) must also be done.

Often, though, pets with food allergies will benefit from a switch to more "natural" food that doesn't have fillers from grains or corn. Pet owners should ask their veterinarian about this transition.

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