As the height of allergy season approaches for many people and pets, some of our clients wonder if feeding a grain free diet is the answer to their pet’s itching. While some notice an improvement in their pet’s skin or gastrointestinal problems, others wonder why their pet is still having problems despite feeding a grain free diet.
According to the McKeever Dermatology Clinic’s website (a veterinary dermatology specialty practice in Minnesota), food allergies in cats and dogs is an uncommon skin disease. Approximately 4-10% of all cases of allergic skin disease can be attributed to food allergies in dogs, and in cats with allergic skin disease, the incidence can be higher at about 40%. In this already small subset of pets with food allergies, an even smaller number are allergic to grains.
The most common clinical signs owners see in their dogs with food allergies are year-round itching, skin redness, bumps on the skin/recurrent skin infections, ear infections, and in some dogs, diarrhea/soft stools, and flatulence. In cats, the most common clinical signs of food allergies are itching and crusts/sores around the head and neck; other signs in cats include dandruff, areas of hair loss, redness of the ears, feline acne, and ear infections.
Unfortunately, food allergies can look similar to numerous other diseases causing skin lesions and itching. Other diseases that can look like food allergies include but are not limited to: allergies to substances in the air/environment, fleas, skin mites, ringworm, bacterial and yeast skin infections, psychogenic alopecia in cats, endocrine diseases (hypothyroidism), and reactions to substances applied to the skin.
While grain free diets may be the answer for the small subset of pets with food allergies specifically to certain grains, there may not be a benefit for those pets that either don’t have an allergy to grains, or have another underlying cause for their itching and skin lesions. Some grain free diets are not nutritionally balanced, and can even cause problems in some animals due to the imbalance of nutrients.
If your pet is suffering from itching or skin lesions, we can help! Please call for an appointment today. We can establish the correct diagnosis, help you navigate this complex topic, and get your pet on his or her way to feeling more comfortable! For more information on food allergies: http://www.mckeevervetderm.com/8701.html