Food-related allergies and intolerance are collectively called Adverse Food Reactions (AFRs). AFRs in pets are a lot more common than reported or investigated. A recent veterinary research review found that 15-20% of all pets taken to the vet with itchy skin had food-related allergies. That’s a high percentage!
So how do you know if your pet has food-related allergies, and how can fresh pet food help your cat and dog with allergies?
Processed Pet Food & Allergies in Pets
Food-related reactions commonly show up as sensitive stomach and itchy skin/coat issues in pets.
If an ingredient in their food triggers an allergic reaction, your dog can display any number of the following symptoms:
💩 frequent sneezing
💩swollen face or muzzle
💩stomach pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
Your cat can display any number of the above plus hyperactive behaviour. (1) The most reported symptom of food allergies in both cats and dogs is itchy skin. The only way to know for sure whether your pet has an allergy is to put them through a food trial or elimination diet.
Is that long ingredient list to blame?
Most vets consider homecooked diets the first choice when putting a pet through an elimination diet to diagnose a food allergy (2). This is partly because of the issue of mislabeling in pet food.
Many studies have found that the actual ingredient list on commercial pet food doesn’t always match the back label. In some studies, the researchers did DNA analysis on the pet food to identify the ingredients actually present in the food. They found that many big-brand pet foods have not reported certain ingredients and proteins in their diets. (3)
Another review found that mislabeling is common even in commercial or vet diets that say they have limited ingredients. When they looked at limited ingredient diets they found anywhere from 33-83% of them had mislabeled their ingredients. (4) This is what they had to say:
“Our review … suggests that the mislabeling of pet foods is rather common, even in those with “novel” or “limited” ingredient [diets].”
This is a big problem when identifying your pet’s food-related allergy since you may never know all the actual ingredients that are going into their food bowl. If your pet has symptoms but doesn’t respond to an elimination trial using the ingredient list on their pet food label, they may have an undiagnosed allergy.
The fresh food difference
The best way to show that a pet has an adverse food reaction is to feed them a limited ingredient diet for some time until their symptoms disappear. Their previous diet is then reintroduced to show that the diet contained an allergen which caused your pets symptoms to reappear. This is called an elimination diet.
Clean, whole ingredients
Feeding your dog a limited ingredient dog food that only contains 100% natural ingredients can make a big different in their allergy symptoms. Gently cooked wet diets like ours avoid certain common allergens present in processed pet food because artificial additives & preservatives are needed to keep these foods shelf stable. Fresh food doesn’t need preservatives because it’s meant to be refrigerated and fed within a few days or frozen for longer storage.
Usually elimination diets contain only 1 source of protein which could be a novel protein (a protein that the pet has never eaten before). Most vets recommend a homemade diet because it’s easy to control and confirm all the ingredients that are going into your pets bowl (2).
Benefits of fresh food for pets with allergies
Low temperature cooking minimizes allergens while retaining nutrition
When a pet has food allergies, it’s not always enough to just choose a food without that allergen in it. As we saw before, mislabeling in pet foods can make it difficult to be 100% certain that an allergen is not present in your dog’s diet. For example, many pet foods that don’t contain chicken are processed with chicken fat, or have traces of chicken byproducts and chicken meal.
One of the major benefits of home cooked pet food is that you can control exactly which ingredients go into your pet's food bowl, and remove any allergens.
You can also work with your vet to substitute any allergy causing ingredients with a healthy alternative. When making a hypoallergenic homemade cat food or hypoallergenic dog food recipe accurate substitutions can still result in a balanced diet.
High quality ingredients and organic vegetables
Commercial pet food brands like Blue Buffalo are often quite cryptic when labeling certain ingredients (for example, “meat byproducts” “Menadione Sodium Bisulfite” “Propylene Glycol”). Monosodium bisulfite is a synthetic version of vitamin K that is carcinogenic when fed over a long period of time, and propylene glycol is anti-freeze. Incomplete labeling leaves you feeding your pet a melange of mysterious ingredients, or in the very least, artificial ingredients.
Choosing to feed homemade dog food recipes allows you to incorporate more whole foods and healthy ingredients into your dog’s diet. You are also able to feed your cat with allergies healthier cuts of meat and fish. Additionally, you can avoid feeding your pet questionable ingredients like by-products and chicken meal.
When choosing ingredients, you have the choice to swap around certain ingredients while maintaining the nutritional balance of your homecooked pet food. For example, you can swap out certain carbohydrate sources and raw meat for hypoallergenic foods such as sweet potato and brown rice. High quality bone meal from a trusted source can also work to balance out the calcium to phosphorus ratio in these recipes.
No fillers, additives or preservatives
Even the best quality commercial dog food and premium cat food incorporate artificial preservatives, salts, and chemicals to keep them fresh. These preservatives can exacerbate existing health conditions like heart disease, allergies, or diabetes, and contribute to general poor health.
Just like it’s better for humans to eat fewer preservatives and more fresh food, it is healthier for our pets as well. Homemade diets remove the need for artificial preservatives because its is fed fresh or kept frozen.
Immune-boosting natural vitamins and minerals
Many times, feeding a commercial pet food diet means that you feed the same variety of kibble for months at a time, think one 30 lb bag of kibble. This lack of variation is boring for your dog, but it is also limiting in terms of immune-boosting natural vitamins and minerals.
A nutritionally balanced homemade pet food recipe allows you to substitute or vary the ingredients in your pet’s meals to offer a wider range of nutrients. Just like us, the more varied the nutrients your dog and cat receives from their diet, the stronger their immune system, and the heathier they will be.
How Kafka’s fresh pet food is hypoallergenic
We designed Kafka’s Organic products to be suitable for a hypoallergenic diet by following these steps:
- Vet-approved balanced recipes to make hypoallergenic dog food and cat food
- Limited ingredient recipes
- 100% human grade, natural and ethically sourced ingredients
- High quality supplements and organic oils
- Immune-boosting nutrients from fresh vegetables, fish and meat
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1. Mueller RS, Olivry T. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (6): prevalence of non cutaneous manifestations of adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2018 Nov 12;14(1):341.
2. Ricci R, Granato A, Vascellari M, Boscarato M, Palagiano C, Andrighetto I, et al. Identification of undeclared sources of animal origin in canine dry foods used in dietary elimination trials. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2013 May;97 Suppl 1:32–8.
3. Pagani E, Soto Del Rio M de LD, Dalmasso A, Bottero MT, Schiavone A, Prola L. Cross contamination in canine and feline dietetic limited antigen wet diets. BMC Vet Res. 2018 Sep 12;14(1):283.
4. Olivry T, Mueller RS. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (5): discrepancies between ingredients and labeling in commercial pet foods. BMC Vet Res. 2018 Jan 22;14(1):24.