Dear Kara: Food allergies (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)


Dear Kara: Food allergies (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)

Welcome to the first edition of Dear Kara, a Hill's-sponsored Q&A series designed to answer your questions about important—and sometimes perplexing—nutrition issues regarding your canine and feline patients. Through your astute questions and Kara's thoughtful answers, Hill's hopes to provide you with useful information to pass along to your clients for their pets' continued well-being.
May 01, 2008

What are the clinical signs of food allergies or food intolerance in dogs and cats?

A variety of clinical signs can manifest from food allergy or food intolerance. In dogs and cats, they can include itchiness, skin lesions, skin and ear infections, and gastrointestinal problems. In cats, clinical signs can also include miliary dermatitis, self-inflicted hair loss and skin scratches, ulcers of the lip, and eosinophilic plaques.

I don't understand the importance of foods with hydrolyzed protein. How do these foods compare to therapeutic foods that use an uncommon protein source?

Hydrolyzation is an innovative process that simplifies the nutritional management of pets with food allergies. Hydrolyzation breaks down protein molecules so that they are too small to be recognized by the pets immune system avoiding an allergic reaction. Adverse food reactions account for 10% to 20% of allergic responses in dogs and cats and can be managed by feeding a hydrolyzed protein food.

Food for Thought
Uncommon protein sources, as you call them, are also known as novel proteins. The theory is that a food is formulated to contain a single novel source of protein. If a pet has never been exposed to this unique protein source, its immune system may not have developed a sensitivity to that protein source. Both nutritional management approaches are valid, but healthcare teams typically recommend hydrolyzed foods in cases of adverse food reactions.

If we suspect a patient has food allergies, should we always start with Hill's® Prescription Diet® z/d® Low Allergen pet food or should we consider Hill's® Prescription Diet® z/d® ULTRA Allergen-Free in some cases? Should we immediately change to z/d or do it gradually?

This question depends on the case. If you have a dog that has been on numerous food trials or novel protein sources, the veterinarian is likely to recommend z/d ULTRA Allergen-Free. To help ensure a successful transition to the new food, recommend that the client gradually increase the percent of the new food in the pets food bowl and decrease the percent of the old food over the course of seven to 10 days.

Can puppies get enough nutrition from only Hill's® Prescription Diet® z/d® Canine pet food? One of our clients struggles with keeping food separate from her new puppy and her older, food-allergic dog. Can she put them both on z/d?

Prescription Diet z/d Canine is not recommended for puppies. Puppies have specific needs for their growing bodies, and Science Diet® Puppy pet foods are formulated to meet the needs of high-energy puppies up to 12 months of age. Remember that z/d is a therapeutic food recommended by a veterinarian for a specific condition. Therefore, its extremely important that the food-allergic dog eat only the z/d as recommended.

It's not impossible to feed the two dogs separately; however, it requires effort from both you and the client. To achieve compliance, you must educate the owner about why the older dog needs the therapeutic food and why the puppy needs the Science Diet Puppy food. This means that you—a compassionate and knowledgeable healthcare team member—must set aside time for client education, start an open dialogue that includes written and verbal instructions, follow up with the client, and provide constant encouragement.