How to Put a Pet on an Elimination Diet: Figuring Out Pet Food Allergies

About 20% of all dogs have an allergy of some kind. Of those dogs that have an allergy, about 10% of them have a food allergy. Because a pet cannot tell his owners which foods are causing trouble, the owners have to put pets on a special diet to figure out what is ailing him. Pet owners can usually diagnose a particular food allergy by putting their pet on an elimination diet.

First, before putting a pet on an elimination diet, the pet owner must talk to the pet’s veterinarian to make sure that there is nothing else causing the trouble. Once the pet has been cleared of any other health issues or environmental allergies that may be causing the pet’s symptoms, that pet can be placed on an elimination diet.

The Trial

For an elimination diet, the pet owner should select one protein source and one carbohydrate source that his or her pet has never eaten. Some examples are rabbit and rice, venison and potato. Whatever combination is chosen, the pet owner needs to check their pet’s food labels to make sure that his or her pet has never eaten those foods. There are some commercially available foods that contain protein and carbohydrates that are broken down so much that they won’t cause an allergic reaction. These are marketed as “limited antigen” food.

Once the combination or commercial food is chosen, the pet owner should feed that to the pet for 12 weeks.

No Cheating!

While on the diet, there can be no:

  • Treats
  • Rawhide
  • Pigs Ears or cow hooves
  • Flavored medications or supplements
  • Flavored toothpastes
  • Flavored plastic toys
  • Any type of different food when giving medications

Outdoor animals should not be allowed to roam because they may scavenge for foods not allowed on the diet. In addition, if a household has multiple pets, they should be fed in separate rooms so that they don’t share. If the pet owner wants to give his or her pet some treats, he or she can prepare the allowed foods in new like freezing or baking

What Now?

Once the pet has been on the elimination diet for 12 weeks, if his symptoms have improved, there is a very good chance that he has a food allergy. If the pet shows a noticeable reduction or elimination of the symptoms, then the pet owner should put the pet back on the original food for a trial. This is called ‘provocative testing’ and is used to make sure that the symptoms were caused by the food. If the symptoms return on the old food, the pet has a food allergy. If there has been no change in symptoms but the owners or veterinarian still suspects a food allergy, then they could try another elimination diet combination.

If the pet has a food allergy, the only treatment is avoidance. The pet owner can consult his or her veterinarian to find a commercially available food that doesn’t have the allergen, or choose to prepare a homemade diet. Owners of food allergy susceptible pets should change that pet’s diet every now and then so that the pet doesn’t develop another allergy. With some monitoring, an allergy-free pet can return to being happy and healthy