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  • Writer's pictureStittsville Kanata Veterinary Hospital

Food Allergy & Feeding Trials

[ Basics ]

A food ingredient causes the immune system of the patient to react causing several GI tract and skin issues. The response may be mild like soft faeces to very strong like hives on the body to trouble breathing. It may be a frustrating condition to diagnose or manage.

[Age] Usually less than 6-12 months but can happen at any age.


Skin - itching / scratching / redness / hair loss on ears / face / paws / anal area / anywhere

GI - diarrhea, vomiting, loose stools


  • Mostly common protein sources like chicken, beef, fish etc but non-protein sources or additives like grain may also cause allergies.

  • Genetics play a role. Some breeds more affected (white colored dogs)

[Diagnostic Tests]

  • Feeding trial with a food prescribed by the veterinarian: Only this food is fed for 2-4 months and no other treats or food is given. Hydrolyzed protein is used mostly in this case. The logic is that immune system doesn't react to hydrolyzed protein. Cost of the prescription food is more than foods on the market but ultimately becomes economical when you take repeated visits to the vet and the medications into account. Prescription food just offers higher chance of working.

  • Serum food allergy tests - may let you know what your pet is allergic to but may give false positives. Also, you may still have to keep using the prescription food as it is sometimes difficult to find a food which doesn't have the ingredient that your pet is allergic to.

  • Intradermal testing - Done by a specialist where a pet needs to be sedated and then multiple allergens are injected in the skin and the ones that cause the most flare up of the skin are found to be the ones causing food allergy.


  • Prescription food - z/d, Anallergenic or Kangaroo based

  • Antihistamines - rarely effective

  • Corticosteroids - work but may come with serious short term and long term side effects

  • Cytopoint - monthly injectable, convenient, may work for some but not for others

  • Apoquel - suits most cases

  • Cyclosporine - immune suppressant, done above treatments don't work

  • Antibiotics - sometimes needed

  • Topical shampoos and medications - may be needed in addition


Good and can be managed with varying degree of difficulty.

[What makes it challenging]

  • Cost of zero allergen food

  • Takes 6-8 weeks to know if the food is actually benefitting

  • Frequent flare ups

  • Consultation, rechecks and medications needed sometimes repeatedly

  • Each case is different

  • Diagnostic test science is not there yet

  • Home made diets rarely provide full nutrition

  • Have to be strict with what you are giving your pet to eat

[Concurrent or Related Issues]

  • IBD / Addison's Disease

  • Flea / Other allergies like environmental

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