Itchy skin = a food allergy?

While most of us battling the bulge might think that a food allergy might not be a bad idea, in reality it isn't something anyone should aspire to!

A food allergy can develop at any age and to just about any food you might care to think of. However, the most common food allergies are, logically, due to foodstuffs that your pet commonly consumes.

Animals usually develop an allergy to a particular food after a prolonged period of exposure to that food. So just because your pet has been eating the same food for the past year doesn't mean to say that you should rule out it's food as a potential cause of an allergic condition.

Unfortunately,the clinical signs of a food allergy,especially in dogs and to a lesser extent in cats, mimic other, more common, allergies like flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) and atopy.

Clinical symptoms include a skin rash that is very itchy with pustules often evident.Sometimes, especially in cats, a food allergy can lead to diarrhoea and occasionally, vomiting.

Food allergies can be a real challenge. Firstly they are probably not as common as FAD or atopies, although the clinical signs involving the skin are very similar. Secondly, having established that it is probably a food allergy, one has to identify the offending food!

This can be a time consuming process as the removal of the offending foodstuff from the pets diet may only show a positive response i.e. a decrease in itching, after several weeks. Patience is thus the name of the game.

To identify the allergenic foodstuff, one has to change the diet to one that has ingredients that the animal has not previously been exposed to (and hope like crazy that it is not allergic to any of the new feedstuffs!). This is sometimes easier said than done especially if the animal was on a commercial ration as these often have a variable composition.

The theory is that you change the diet to a bland, non allergenic test diet and the animal responds positively. Then over the following weeks and months you add back one ingredient at a time until you get a flare up of the allergic condition. Voila - you have identified what causes the allergy!

In reality, this can be a very long and not always rewarding undertaking and most people will settle for a basic diet that is non allergenic and not worry about trying to identify the exact cause of the

food allergy.