Pet Food Allergies vs. Pet Food Sensitivities
A food sensitivity is different from a food allergy in both humans and animals. If we’re looking at food sensitivities – this is also referred to as an intolerance. When your pet experiences a food sensitivity it’s because they can’t properly digest a particular ingredient in their food.
If we’re looking at food allergies in pets, this is a different condition which comes from an immune response. While both cause similar symptoms, they are different, although sensitivities are a lot more common.
Symptoms of food sensitivities in pets
Usually when a pet experiences a food sensitivity, they will start showing symptoms within the first hour. This is common in both pets and humans, and one of the most frequent sensitivities is lactose intolerance.
This is a very common issue among pets who cannot digest dairy products such as eggs and milk. Usually, it results in diarrhea, flatulence and vomiting. Sensitivities are also commonly associated with foods including wheat, beef, chicken and other proteins.
Although uncommon, food sensitivities can also result in skin issues for animals. In other words, they become unable to process nutrients responsible for a healthy skin.
However, if this is the case, it can result in:
Chronic foot or ear infections
Hair loss due to scratching.
It’s also important to remember that your pet can develop a sensitivity at any point in their life, even if they’ve been on the same food for years.
If you’ve noticed your pet is experiencing these symptoms, you should reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible because they can perform tests to detect the problem ingredient. If you’re unsure, keep in mind that food sensitivities often result in gastrointestinal symptoms.
Symptoms of food allergies in pets
Looking at food allergies, they cause very similar symptoms as food sensitivities although they are completely different conditions. Your pet’s immune system response is responsible for whatever allergy they might have, and this occurs because their body perceives a threat.
This is an irregular reaction to a normal food, and this happens because your pet’s immune system has mistakenly said a safe substance is not safe.
Symptoms usually take longer than an hour to appear like food sensitivities – this means its normal for symptoms to show up days later for an allergy, which can be confusing for pet owners trying to find the cause of their pet’s symptoms. It is very common for pets to have allergies to environmental factors such as fleas, pollen and dust but it is a lot less common for pets to have food allergies.
That doesn’t mean they don’t happen though and there are some things to look for! If your pet encounters a food allergy, they could experience gastrointestinal problems, itchiness, sneezing, hot spots, rashes, red eyes, swollen face and/or hives.
Typically, gastrointestinal problems are associated more with sensitivities, but it is also possible when your pet experiences an allergy. The simplest way to look at your pet’s allergy is it isn’t a problem with the food, but rather a flaw in your pet’s immune system. Once you know what your pet is allergic to and you avoid it, they will continue living a happy and normal life.
Pet food and Dietary Indiscretion
Something else to be mindful of as a pet owner aside from allergies and sensitivities is dietary indiscretion. This is when your pet consumes something bad like garbage, raw food or human food.
When your pet experiences dietary indiscretion, their feeding behavior alters. As a consequence, they could suffer from garbage toxicosis, also known as garbage gut. This typically occurs when what they’ve ingested contains bacteria or other toxins.
This results in bloody diarrhea, projectile vomiting, fever, dehydration, pain and swelling and lack of energy. Your veterinarian can help diagnosis garbage toxicosis through a general examination. Dietary indiscretion can also result in other conditions such as pancreatitis and acute gastritis.
Be aware of what your pet is putting in their mouths and eating and do not give them food meant for humans.
Originally Published Oct 15, 2021
Updated May 01, 2023