What’s the Scoop on Food?

Food allergies in pets continue to be a common area of concern for most pet owners. With that said, let me tell you about a patient of mine, Brooke, a 10-year-old, Shih Tzu! Brooke had suffered with chronic ear problems since puppyhood. She never liked going to the veterinarian because she feared ⎯ the dreaded ear exam. Every time we tried to examine Brooke’s ears, she would bite, squirm, and do anything to avoid it! For 8 years, Brooke had countless visits to the vet for: cultures, medications, and even ear flushes under anesthesia. The infections would resolve, and then return a few months later.

We then discussed the possibility of a food allergy. Brooke’s diet was very difficult to control, and changing her food didn’t seem to help. When Brooke turned 10, her living situation changed, and Brooke’s parents were able to commit to a very strict food elimination diet. That was the answer and Brooke felt wonderful! The swelling and infections she had dealt with her entire life began to resolve. Brooke even allowed us to examine her ears without wearing a muzzle. Brooke no longer makes regular trips to the vet for her ears, and she is living a happy dog life!

Dogs and cats can suffer from a variety of skin conditions with various underlying causes, requiring different treatments. However, we are finding that, some of the chronic conditions are related to the pet’s diet. Food allergies and intolerances affect animals differently. Some pets have chronic ear infections, while others have: itchy paws or faces, chronic skin infections, anal gland problems, and/or gastro-intestinal upset. Some animals may have a food intolerance or allergy from a very young age, while others develop problems later in life.

There is not a test to confirm food allergies. We examine the pet, rule out other skin conditions, and consider the history of the problems. If we suspect that food may be the issue, we recommend a very strict “Food Elimination Diet.” Usually, we can tell if the food is helping within 2 months. If a pet does have a food allergy or intolerance, they will have to maintain a strict diet for the rest of their life, or symptoms will return. Finding the right food for a pet can mean preventing years of pain and medications, and an improved quality of life.