Tag: treats

The Lowdown on Food Allergies & Diets

1Is your pet having ongoing skin or gastro intestinal issues with unknown causes? Have you exhausted all the other causes such as infection, parasites, or anatomy issues? Is your pet’s Veterinarian now recommending a food trial? If so, below is the lowdown on food allergies, what exactly a food trial is, how to properly execute a food trial, and what food options there are.

 What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after eating a certain food. Ingredients in pet food may be combined or changed into substances recognized by the immune system as foreign invaders to be attacked. The target of this attack include the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or other organ systems, but in dogs and cats it is the skin that most often suffers the most. The classical signs of food allergies in pets can be itchy lesions on the face, limbs, anal area, and ears. Some other symptoms are ongoing diarrhea and/or vomiting. Symptoms start when the pet is less than 6 months old or starts when the pet is older then 5-6 years old. Food allergies can develop even if a pet has been eating the same food for years with no issues. It takes time for them to develop the allergy. Symptoms do not happen seasonally like with airborne allergens, they are always present.  It is also noted that corticosteroids do not help with most food allergy issues.

The pet food companies have done a great job of advertising “grain free” diets, but unfortunately the pet usually is having a reaction to both the protein and/or carbohydrate in the diet. Grains are not bad for our pets. There is no simple test to see exactly what is causing the reaction. To solve the problem the culprit must be removed from the pet’s world. This is why we do food trials.

What is a food trial?

Before beginning a food trial we want to make sure all other possible culprits have been ruled out (parasites, infections, anatomy issues). If there is any secondary skin infection from the lesions, they must be cleared before starting the trial.

A food trial is when a hypoallergenic diet is fed for a period of time deemed by your Veterinarian. If the symptoms resolve, you then switch the pet back to its original food for 2 weeks to see if the symptoms return. If we see relapse, it is recommended to return to the food trial diet and staying on the food indefinitely.

There are no other ways to diagnose a food allergy. Blood tests are not helpful. Blood tests can detect antibodies against certain food proteins but this does not mean that the pet has an allergy. It could just mean the pet has eaten that type of protein before.

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What is involved in a food trial?

Food trials are VERY strict in order to see accurate results and everyone in the household must be on board with the instructions. This means the pet shouldn’t have any other protein sources besides the test protein. This includes rawhides, flavored chew toys, flavored chewable medications including heartworm/flea preventions, flavored vitamins, and all treats. Chewable medications will need to be switched to non flavored tablets/capsules and chewable heartworm/flea preventions may need to be switched to a topical brand.

As stated above, the pet is put on a hypoallergenic diet for at least 3 months. No other food/treats can be fed. If symptoms resolve then the pet is put back on their original diet for 2 weeks. If symptoms resume then we can diagnose a food allergy. The pet can then return to the hypoallergenic diet indefinitely. Some owners opt to not go back to the original diet because they do not want their pet to go through the horrible symptoms again. They will just continue the food trial diet indefinitely.

A food trial is very easy in that all you have to do is feed the hypoallergenic diet, but owners tend to find it hard to not feed other treats. Owners will state that the food trial failed, but in reality they were not being as strict as needed.

What are current food trial options?

There are three different types of diets that can be used in a food trial: a novel protein, hydrolyzed protein, or a home cooked diet.

Novel proteins are most commonly used in food trials. They are diets that contain a single protein source and single carbohydrate source. The most important part of choosing a novel protein, is that it has to be one that the pet has never come in contact with before. For example if you choose a venison and sweet potato diet, the pet must not have eaten either one of these protein/carbohydrates in any other food (treats, dry food, canned, etc). It takes years for a pet to become allergic to a food source, so the pet should not be allergic to something new. Pet food companies are starting to make a huge variety of flavors of food/treats, so it can be very hard to find a diet for the pet if the owner tends to feed a variety of different flavored food/treats.

Examples of novel protein diets include venison and potato, fish and potato, egg and rice, duck and pea, and even kangaroo. Several of these diets have been released to the public markets, so it is very important to choose ingredients for the trial that is not found in the pet’s regular diet. Public markets tend to sell these novel protein food for a lot less then Veterinary prescription diets, but they cannot guarantee that there are no additional proteins mixed in. Contamination easily happens because the machines are not thoroughly cleaned with each new batch of food made. Veterinary prescription diets can guarantee that the product does not contain any contaminants. The the machines are thoroughly cleaned/disinfected between batches of food. Most Veterinary prescribed diets have a 100 percent guarantee. This means that if the pet does not like the food, it can be returned for a refund.

Hydrolyzed proteins are diets that contain the smallest amount of molecules of a protein so that the body cannot detect them.  Basically, the immune system is tricked into no longer recognizing the protein so it does not trigger a reaction. The downside of hydrolyzed protein diets is that it is not as palatable as it would be with the protein in its original form. Examples of hydrolyzed protein diets include Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d, Purina HA HypoAllergenic Canine Formula, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Hypoallergenic. These diets also have a 100 percent guarantee. If the pet does not like the food, then it can be returned for a refund.

Home cooked diets are rarely used in food trial diets. It can be very inconvenient for the owner to have to cook the pets every meal and important vitamins/minerals are easily left out of the diet. If an owner wants to pursue a home cooked diet a nutritionist should be involved so that they can make a balanced diet for the pet. Recipes for appropriate diets can be purchased through BalanceIt, rpetdiets.com, or by any nutritionist listed at the American College of Veterinary Nutrition web site.

So how do you find out exactly what protein/carbohydrate the pet is allergic to?

2The process to find out what exact protein/carbohydrate a pet is allergic to is not a simple task but it can be done. It can be a very lengthy process. To do this, you add a single/pure protein source (such as cooked chicken, tofu, wheat flour or any other single food) to the test diet with each meal. If the pet begins to show allergic symptoms within two weeks, then that protein source causes an allergic reaction. You must return to the test diet until the allergic symptoms stops and then you can try another pure protein source. If no symptoms show after two weeks of feeding a test protein, then the pet is not allergic to that protein.

What if a diet is unsuccessful?

To determine if a diet was truly unsuccessful we need to make sure the owner was 100 percent compliant (meaning they only fed the test food), parasites are under control, infections are under control, and that the food trial was done for long enough time. If all those boxes are checked, then it is strongly suggestive that an inhalant allergy is the culprit. If this is the case, biopsies by dermatologist is recommended.

By: Jamie McAfee

Sources:
Brooks, Wendy C. “Food Allergies.” Veterinary Partner, 2001,      http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=652

H, Heidi. “Royal Canin Veterinary Diet® Canine Selected Protein Adult PR Dry Dog Food.” Canine Selected Protein Adult PR Dry Dog Food | Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, 10 Aug. 2015,  http://www.royalcanin.com/products/royal-canin-veterinary-diet-canine-selected-protein-adult-pr-dry-dog-food/1396

“Allergy – Food Allergy in Dogs.” vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/allergy-food-allergy-in-dogs

Clinical Nutrition Team. “What Every Pet Owner Should Know about Food Allergies.” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 30 Jan. 2017, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2017/01/food-allergies

https://www.hillspet.com

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The Big Fat Truth About Pet Obesity (and What You Can Do About It)

We all know that face our pets make at us when they want a treat. But let’s stop for a second and think before we give in.

Obesity is a growing epidemic not just for humans but for our furry companions as well; a recent survey done by the veterinary students at University of Georgia showed that 54% of our nation’s pets are overweight or obese. That’s 88.4 million pets!

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So keeping this in mind, how will being overweight affect your pet? There are many conditions that can develop from your pet being overweight such as osteoarthritis, decreased stamina, hypertension, diabetes, lipomas (fatty mass), respiratory compromise and most of all it can shorten their life span. Scary stuff right?

Well I know what you’re thinking, “how do I know if my pet is over weight?” Sometimes it can be hard to recognize that your pet is overweight as the weight gain can come on gradually or it is hard to actually accept that your pet is more than just a little chunky and is now fully obese. To assist in this evaluation, body condition scoring has been developed and is fairly easy to accomplish. There is a five-point system (where three out of five is considered optimal). What you want to do is evaluate your pet, feel for a small amount of padding over the ribs. It should be possible to feel the ribs and there should be a small tuck in the belly where the hind legs meet the body. See the graph below.

BCS

A question you may be asking yourself is “What can I do to prevent my pet from becoming overweight?” Let start with two words; portion control. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to figure out exactly how much each individual pet should be eating. Determining the correct size for meals depends on the type of food they are fed, how many times a day they eat, their size, their metabolic rate, the amount of exercise they get, and more. To start the process, take a look at the feeding guide on your pet’s food’s label to see how much they should be eating.

dietSo say your pet is already over weight and you’re ready to get some of that extra chunk off your furry friend. This may sound simple, but in fact when one simply tries to cut back on food; it just doesn’t seem to cut it. As with humans, a more formal approach seems to work best. This means feeding a prescription diet made for weight loss (typically “lite” or “less active” diets are meant to prevent weight gain, not actually cause weight loss), exercise, and coming in for regular weigh-ins at the vet’s office.

This means:

  • There must be control over what the pet eats. That’s easy enough if there is only one pet, but trickier if there is more than one pet in the home. Use your ingenuity to feed the pets separately.
  • Feed in meals. Leaving food out encourages snacking. Feeding in meals makes it easier to feed multiple pets different foods or different amounts of food.
  • Commit to regular weigh-ins. Know what the goal weight is and how long it should take to reach this goal/or how to tell if the pet is on target. It is important not to try to go too fast. If the weight loss is not on track, sometimes it is necessary to feed more rather than less. Your veterinarian may need to be in contact with the clinical nutritionists at the pet food company so as to make the best recommendations.
  • Consider interactive toys that can be used when you are not home or where your own participation is minimal.

icecreamIf you have concerns about your pet’s weight, talk to your veterinarian. Be sure to rule out any health issues that might specifically cause obesity as an initial step in obesity management.

By: Shelly Crosson

Making Your Cat’s Visit to the Vet More Feline Friendly

By Ashley Elliott

We all love our cats but taking them to the vet can be stressful for both cats and their owners! Trying to catch our feline friends and then get them into a carrier isn’t always a walk in the park. Here are some tips on how to get your cat to have a more enjoyable experience from the carrier to the clinic.

Getting your cat used to being around their carrier is the first step to reducing stress for both you and your cat when bringing them to the clinic. If the only time your cat sees the carrier is when you’re trying to catch them to take them to the vet, they’re not going to be too happy to see it. But if you keep the carrier out all the times, your cat will get used to it. If you don’t want to leave it out all the time, try getting the carrier out for about a week before your appointment.

Teaching your cat to love their carrier is the second step to make a trip the vet less stressful. This can be achieved by training your cat to associate good things with their carrier. Food is an excellent motivator. Just let your cat associate meals and yummy treats with their carrier. Start by feeding your cat right outside of the carrier. Over the next few days, slowly move the food further into the carrier. You’ll know that your cat is comfortable when they’re eating their food in the carrier without hesitation.

There are calming pheromone sprays, like Feliway, that can help as well. You can spray a towel, blanket, or even the carrier itself. Do this about twenty minutes before you plan on leaving the house.

Since you’re going to the vet, chances are your cat is going to get some vaccines. Towels may be used during the exam to help comfortably restrain your cat. You can train your cat to get used to this at home. You can also train your cat to get used to having their skin handled similar to how you trained them to like their carrier. Associate treats or food with light handling of their skin.

Now that your cat isn’t running away at the sight of carrier, it’s time to go to the vet! If you’re not able to go into an exam room right away, try to keep your cat away from scary situations in the waiting room. There are all sorts of strange smells and sounds in waiting room that could make your cat anxious. Try to keep other animals away from the carrier. Other animals may want to investigate the carrier, but this could upset your cat. You could cover the carrier with a towel to help prevent this.

Once you’re in the room, let your cat get used to their new surroundings. Open the carrier door and let them investigate. Don’t dump your cat out of the carrier or try to pull them out of it. This will just upset your cat and set a bad tone for the rest of your cat’s visit. Most carriers can be disassembled or opened in different ways. You can also use treats or catnip to make your cat feel more comfortable in the room.

Training your cat to love their carrier and helping them get used to being handled will help you and your cat have a more enjoyable, stress free visit to the clinic.