Your pet’s ears are all red. His skin is itchy. If it’s really bad, the fur is coming out. Classic signs of one of the most frustrating conditions a pet owner can encounter: allergies.
The tricky thing about allergies is that they could be triggered by anything. Triggers are generally broken down into three categories: environmental (grass, pollen, household cleaners), dietary (what your pet eats), or infestations (allergies to fleas, for instance). Your vet can run tests, but they’re not always conclusive. Sadly, the only real way to identify what’s triggering the reaction is to eliminate every potential allergen, one by one, until you hit the one that was irritating your pet.
For food allergies, this means droppping whatever food your pet was eating before. Since most commercial kibbles and canned foods contain an extremely long list of ingredients, and your pet may be allergic to any one of them, your best bet is to choose a dish with a short list of ingredients your pet has never been exposed to before. A simple example:
- sweet potatoes
- brown rice
Other exotic protein sources include elk, kangaroo, emu, rabbit, etc. These can be found at natural pet boutiques, either in kibbles and cans, or even better, frozen raw. If you try your pet on the new food and he can eat without itching, congratulations! But you’re not done yet.
An allergy is basically your pet’s immune system derailed—it’s decided to identify a harmelss substance as a threat, then goes into overdrive trying to remove the substance from the body.
But the immune system generally tags a substance as harmful when it’s been overexposed to that substance. So what does this mean about your new emu diet? Simply that if you keep feeding emu every day, your pet stands a good chance of developing an allergy to emu. And then you’re right back where you started.
That’s why experimenting with new foods is even more important for pets with allergies than for healthy furkids.
The good news? If your pet was allergic to chicken a few years ago, and hasn’t had chicken since, there’s a chance you may be able to eventually reintroduce it. Why? Your pet’s body is no longer drowning in chicken. His immune system has had a break. It doesn’t need to keep screaming, “No more chicken!”
And one more tip: the most common food allergen is actually grain. The reason is simple. Stroll down the grocery store aisle and read the first ingredient on every bag of pet food. It’ll usually be a grain product. Compounding the problem, the canine and feline digestive systems aren’t really constructed to make any use of grains. Our pets have been swimming in grains, and they’ve had enough.
Often times, a grain-free, fresh-food diet is all it takes to clear up that frustrating food allergy.