Monday, March 4, 2024

What Is The Difference Between A Food Allergy And A Food Intolerance In Pets?

Dogs and cats both can experience food allergies and intolerances that may impact their well-being. While many of our pets are known for their diverse and often hearty appetites, certain ingredients in their diets can trigger adverse reactions.

Is It A Food Allergy or Food Intolerance?

    What is a food allergy? A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to a specific protein found in a particular food item. In dogs and cats, common food allergens include proteins such as beef or chicken, as well as other foods like peanuts, grains, and dairy, which may be perceived by the immune system as harmful invaders. Food allergies differ from food intolerances.

    Food Allergies In Dogs & Cats

    Food allergies involve the immune system's abnormal response to specific proteins in food. When a dog or cat with a food allergy consumes an allergenic ingredient, such as chicken or wheat, the immune system mistakenly identifies the protein as harmful and mounts an immune response, producing antibodies to fight off the perceived threat.

    • Symptoms of Food Allergies - Food allergies in dogs and cats can manifest as a wide range of symptoms, including skin rashes, itching, hives, ear infections, gastrointestinal upset (such as diarrhea or vomiting), and in severe cases, respiratory distress or anaphylaxis.

    This immune response can occur upon initial exposure to the allergen or may develop over time with repeated exposure. Food allergies can emerge at any stage in a dog or cat's life, and certain breeds may be more predisposed to specific allergens. Identifying and managing food allergies is important for maintaining overall health, as prolonged exposure to allergens can lead to chronic inflammation, discomfort, and potentially more severe health issues if left untreated. If you think your dog may have a food allergy, please consult with your veterinarian for testing and to create a management plan for your pet.

    Food Intolerances In Cats & Dogs

    Food intolerances, on the other hand, do not involve the immune system. Instead, they occur when a dog or cat's digestive system is unable to properly digest or process certain food components. This may be due to enzyme deficiencies, such as lactase deficiency (inability to digest lactose), or sensitivity to specific food components, such as gluten or certain carbohydrates.

    • Symptoms of Food Intolerances - Food intolerances typically result in gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, gas, bloating, or abdominal discomfort. Unlike food allergies, which can cause systemic reactions, food intolerances primarily affect the digestive system.

    Identifying the offending ingredient is crucial for managing these sensitivities, often requiring a process of elimination through controlled diets. Pets with food allergies and intolerances can usually benefit from a feeding a low carbohydrate, novel protein diet.  Raw frozen diets are low in carbohydrates, rich in nutrients and are the gold standard for pet nutrition. 

    Author:  Susan Blake Davis, Pet Nutritionist
    Date:  3/4/2024