3 questions clients ask about pet food allergies
Sandra Grable, CVT, a dermatology technician at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, shares three common questions clients ask when they discover their pet might have a food allergy and offers advice to help you serve up answers with confidence.
Q. How can my pet be allergic to her food when she's been eating it most of her life?
Although food hypersensitivity is generally seen in young or older animals, it can develop at any age, Grable says. So explain to pet owners that their pet may even develop a hypersensitivity to a food that she's been eating for a long time. The development of an allergic reaction requires repeated exposures to the protein, with the reaction becoming more severe over time.Q. What treats can I give to my pet while on a food trial?
Tell pet owners that it's preferable if they don't give treats during a food trial. However, if they resist the idea of withholding treats, Grable says there are several options to choose from, including using the therapeutic diet as a treat. Finally, it's important to say, "If you have any questions regarding a treat, please contact us first."
Q. I've tried several different over-the-counter diets and nothing has worked. So why do you still think my pet has food allergies?
Many owners will change brands of food on their own, thinking this is a good way to see if their pet is food allergic, Grable says. In reality, they're just switching from one chicken-, beef-, or lamb-based diet to another. Or they may not realize that the pet may have been exposed to a particularly common protein before.
"Most pets are allergic to the protein source in their diet, so we typically select a novel protein—one the pet has not been exposed to before or one that wouldn't cross-react with another protein that the animal has been exposed to," Grable says. "Also many different diets have numerous protein sources, such as chicken, beef, and fish, all in the same diet."
It's also important to be aware of the manufacturing process where the pet food is made, Grable says. You might explain to clients that although a diet that can be purchased in a pet or grocery store may seem fine by looking at the ingredient list, the manufacturer may be using the same equipment to make other diets and may not have a wash-out cleaning process period in between the two different foods. For example, some of the proteins from a chicken-based diet may still be present on the equipment while they make the novel protein diet, and there may be some cross-contamination.