Food Allergies and Intolerances: Is there any difference?

A variety of dogs suffer from allergies or intolerances, but large sums of pet owners are confused by the difference. The below outlines the difference between pet food allergies and intolerances.

Pet Food Allergies

A pet food allergy involves the immune system. This can be triggered by a dog’s response to a certain ingredient such as a protein source. For example, cells may release histamine which causes itching.  Generally, food allergies cause skin-related issues in dogs such as inflammation, itching, hair loss and hot spots. There is also the possibility they can develop ear infections that can become a reoccurring theme once treatment has ended.

A dog that has a food allergy will most likely always suffer from this. However, the severity of this can change over time.

A common theme for owners is to assume that itchy skin is caused by a food allergy. However, true food allergies in cats and dogs are very rare, making up for only 1% of all skin diseases in dogs.

Pet Food Intolerances

A pet food intolerance does not involve the immune system and is caused when a food doesn’t agree with a dog’s body. This is simply a functional or mechanical issue with digesting a particular food. An example of this is a dog may be sensitive to wheat. Intolerances often mimic food allergies because the body can only demonstrate a problem in so many ways.

It can be challenging to identify what causes food intolerance. Owners can use an elimination diet to take away ingredients that they believe may be the cause of the problem. This works by removing a suspect ingredient for a minimum of 4 weeks from a dogs diet and then reintroducing the ingredient and wait for a return of any physical changes.

Common ingredients that may cause intolerance’s include grains (i.e wheat and maize), eggs, soya or dairy.

What can pet owners do?

If an owner believes that their pet is suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, there is a number of things they can do.

  • Feed their pet hypoallergenic food as this helps to avoid common allergens and intolerances
  • Choose a diet with a single protein source such as meat or fish
  • Select a diet with novel ingredients
  • Follow an elimination diet

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