Change in diet can help prevent pet allergies

Julie Renson, a veterinary technician at the New Market Veterinary Clinic, said animals can have four types of allergies: inhaled, contact, food and flea allergies.

She said an inhaled allergy is something the animal can breathe in. A contact allergy is an allergy from something the animal lies on or walks through. Food allergies can occur from anything an animal eats. A flea allergy is an allergy from a fleabite that results in a rash.

“Usually the first one that we start with is the food,” Renson said. “We tell people to try to switch to a different food.”

The three main ingredients an animal is allergic to in its food are grain, beef and chicken, she said. Pet parents who think their pets have a food allergy should look for foods with lamb, fish, bison or venison, and those that are grain-free. Foods with a novel food source the cat or dog hasn’t been introduced to yet would work best.

She said a trial run of the new food should be conducted by gradually switching the animal’s food source over the course of seven to 10 days. If a food is switched too quickly, there can be adverse effects, such as diarrhea. Another six-to-eight-day trial period should be done to test the food and see if it is the cause of the pet’s allergy.

Dogs tend to have more food and contact allergies, Renson said, while cats tend to be more prone to inhaled and flea allergies.

“For the most part we don’t see a lot of cats with food allergies,” she said.

When it comes to dry versus wet food, Renson said, “For the most part we recommend mainly dry food.”

If you decide to add wet food into a pet’s diet, she said, “Stick with the same brand of grain-free, novel protein source as the dry food.”

She added that she sees a lot of people buying grain-free dry food, but then they buy the cheapest wet food they can find that is loaded with grains and wonder why the dry food isn’t preventing allergies in their pet.

“It all has to be the same,” she said. “Everything you feed the dog has to be grain-free, has to be a different protein source.”

New Market Veterinary also offers allergy testing when the source of an animal’s allergy can’t be determined. The veterinarian will send a blood sample to an outside lab.

She recounted a time she sent a blood sample to the lab for a dog whose symptoms had stumped veterinarians. The results showed the dog was allergic to “everything outside,” including trees, shrubs and grass. The dog was also allergic to lamb and fish, “which are usually two of the foods they are not allergic to.”

“It’s different with everyone,” Renson said.

She added that allergies tend to affect dogs and cats older than 2, once their immune systems have matured. Allergies in puppies and kittens are rare.

“If you see (an allergy) in a puppy, that’s kind of like an uh-oh because that pretty much means that they are going to be dealing with that for the dog’s entire life,” she said.

A genetic component can also be present, she added. If someone is getting a puppy from a breeder, she recommends checking the parents’ skin and coat for allergy symptoms and asking the breeder.

Shelter dogs and cats usually don’t have a medical or family history, she said, “(So) you kind of just take your chances.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com