Q: My pet has a food allergy and has been maintained on a limited ingredient diet for two years. This week, she started scratching at her head and belly again and licking her paws. Is she now allergic to her new food?
A: Maybe, but probably not. Allergies can be tricky to diagnose and treat, because there are so many different things—from food to parasites to environmental factors—that can cause a cat or dog to be itchy. Animals with food allergies can also have secondary allergies to pollen, mold, dust, etc. Even when your allergic pet is doing well, keep in mind that allergies are a chronic condition that are never really cured. The key to keeping your pet comfortable is threefold: eliminating potential allergens when possible, managing potential allergens that cannot be removed (such as pollen in the air) and regularly having your pet evaluated by a veterinarian. Like any chronic condition, atopy is one that requires constant vigilance and occasional changes in treatment. If your pet has symptoms, she should have an exam to rule out other itch-causing problems like fleas or mites, and treatment to ease her itching and soothe inflammation. In addition to feeding a grain-free diet, Dr. Burbelo and Dr. Danna recommend that all food allergic patients also take probiotics. Probiotic supplements contain helpful bacteria that may improve the function of the gut and support the immune system. BSAH carries a veterinary formula for cats and dogs; as always, you should always discuss the matter with your vet before adding supplements of any kind to your pet’s diet.