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Dealing with pet allergies

he top concern we deal with daily at our store is allergies. It is surprising how many pets are diagnosed with allergies and offered various pills and injections to treat them.

We tend to see the people that either want to treat the issue more naturally, or people who can’t or won’t pay for what can be expensive treatment regimens.

The biggest key is deciding whether symptoms are a food allergy, an environmental allergy, or even something completely unrelated to allergies, but which presents with itching or scratching.

Medications are usually designed to quell symptoms, but they may not relieve the underlying issue. Masking symptoms can give your pet relief, but it’s not always the best option long term. Especially if the medications have short- or long-term side effects.

If it truly is a food allergy, the best option is to try a raw food elimination diet. Some people opt for allergy testing first, and this can be helpful to give you some guidelines as to what to avoid. You can get full-on allergy testing done by a veterinary specialist, or there is less expensive, mail-away passive testing that can be done with hair or saliva samples. Either way, while the test results may not be definitive, they can outline a plan for an elimination diet.

Most people opt to skip that option and go directly to an elimination diet. The most important thing is to limit the types of proteins your pet ingests, and to offer a single protein for at least a month. This includes treats and even the smallest accidental feeding. A goldfish cracker or an elbow macaroni may be all it takes to trigger. Even the smallest exposure can cause a reaction.

Deciding which protein to start with can be a big decision. Many people, having forgone the testing, have saved money, so they spend it on a unique protein such as venison, kangaroo or rabbit. These can be 5 to 10 times the price of chicken, but it’s only for a month, and the result may be the cessation of symptoms, which you cannot put a price on.

Some people opt for less expensive but still somewhat unique proteins, such as pork, duck, goat or turkey. These are still more expensive than chicken, but only two or three times the price. Many pets do clear up using one of these proteins, but if they have not, then we need to go to the more expensive options.

Once we have a symptom-free pet, we can start introducing other proteins one at a time, to see if there is a reaction, and work down the reactivity list until we get to chicken. Many times, it is not the meat protein in a processed food that is the issue, but rather a plant protein or even an additive.

Sometimes the ‘allergy’ might be something else, like an issue with the digestive tract we call ‘leaky gut’ or even just an imbalance in the gut biome, so we always recommend adding a good, species-appropriate probiotic to any pet’s diet. Supplementing with Omega 3s can also help with skin issues

Does this process fix every pet? No. But the number it does work for is remarkable, so it’s well worth trying.