in Dogs and Cats
Food allergies: multiple warning signs
Food allergies are non-seasonnal allergies that often break out suddenly after months, perhaps even years, of a regular intake of the suspected ingredient.
For dogs, clinical signs of a food allergy are essentially cutaneous accompanied by an itching sensation (caused by a cutaneous nerves dysfunction), non-seasonal and recurring but of variable intensity.
- This cutaneous itch can either be expanding throughout the body, or just limited to areas such as the face, the ears, the paws or areas of the lower belly and groin.
- An external ear infection can, for certain animals, be the only symptom, which is why its presence often expresses a strong indication of the presence of a food allergy.
- Anusitis (inflammation of the anal edge) also seems to be an important warning symptom of a food allergy
Food allergy in dogs can also be characterised by gastro intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, an abdominal discomfort or vomiting.
A lack of reliable tools, and because of the fact that food allergy in dogs and cats is characterised by a large variety of symptoms, the food allergy diagnosis is often considered after a differential diagnosis that consists in excluding other possible causes of the symptoms.
Searching for ingredients containing allergens
If theoretically any ingredients are capable of causing food allergies, ingredients most frequently associated to food allergies vary according to food habits. However, the main allergens encountered by animals are meat, beef meat topping the list, followed by lamb, chicken, eggs, soya, dairy products and wheat.
In case of food allergy suspicion, currently the only means of diagnosing it with certainty consists in submitting the animal to an elimination diet.
An elimination diet consists in changing the animal’s current food diet for a range of selected ingredients that the animal should have never encountered and therefore should not be allergic to.
To do so, during a meeting with a veterinarian, an exhaustive list of all possible ingredients the animal could have been eating during his whole life is established.
To be conclusive, the duration of the elimination diet must take place over a period of 8 to 12 weeks. The food allergy diagnosis will be definitely established after reintroduction of the suspected food that will then result in the symptoms to come back.
Limitation of the elimination diet
- The elimination diet is very difficult to put in place and it is often hard on the owner to respect it during the whole of the established duration. Indeed, some exceptions can be made without always mentioning it to the veterinary
- The absence of improvements during the elimination diet does not always exclude with certainty the presence of a food allergy
- It is not rare that dogs suffering from food allergies be sensitized to several components of their food diet.
- The frequent use of domestic food during an elimination diet (containing a unique source of proteins and carbohydrates) is a hindrance to the animal’s balanced diet.
- Veterinaries suspect that food additives such as food colouring or preservatives play a role in food allergies
Innovation in the diagnosis of food allergies
The diagnosis of an allergy in dogs or cats is complex as its ambiguous clinical manifestation is essentially cutaneous, similar symptoms to an atopic dermatitis. It is often difficult to distinguish an allergy from any other disease (parasites, itch,…) just by looking at the symptoms. It is as difficult to distinguish a food allergy from an environmental allergy.
Cyno-DIAL®and Feli-DIAL® are based on a molecular biology method, called «Immunoblot », method that was up to now reserved to laboratories for fundamental research as a diagnosis tool. This serum test allows the detection of specific IgE in each allergenic protein (sensitization) contained in the various food preparation.
Cyno-DIAL® and Feli-DIAL®’s strong point® is to be able toanalyse commercial preparations in their entirety, and not component by component as do other technologies currently present on the market.
References resulting negative to the animal’s IgE only are selected to put into place the elimination diet.
The prevalence of dogs’ food allergy is estimated between 7 and 12%.
Some dogs races are genetically predisposed to allergies: Boxer, Golden Retriever, Lhassa Apso, West Highland White Terrier,…