OK, I guess that is probably overstating things to say I love food allergies. I don’t love diseases. But I love talking about food allergies, for reasons not known even to me. I just think it’s fascinating stuff and there is still so much we are trying to figure out.
As many of you know, Apollo has food allergies. He had a late onset in life, at 7 years of age; he had been on fairly consistent diet ingredients most of his life. He had shown some symptoms of dietary intolerances before he developed into full-blown allergic mode, so I suspect he’s always had a sensitive system. So I get it, what a pain it is, and how miserable it can make your pets.
Allergy versus intolerance
Dermatologists (the subset of veterinary specialists who deal with allergic disease) estimate only 5% of allergic disease is caused by food allergy. Low, right? And there’s no quicker way to make a veterinarian say “augh!” than to mix up food allergy with food intolerance. A true allergy is an immune-mediated response with a distinct set of mechanisms that kick into place. Food intolerances, on the other hand, encompass a wide variety of adverse reactions to food that aren’t necessarily immune mediated, and tend to occur much more often.
The semantics are important for veterinarians because accurate diagnosis, understanding the mechanism behind the reaction, is key to controlling it. From an owner’s perspective, though, who cares whether the lamb that gives your dog explosive diarrhea every time he eats it is caused by a food allergy or a food intolerance. You want it to stop regardless.
Foods for the food sensitive pet
For a very long time, there were few good options for owners whose pets needed special diets. You fed a hydrolyzed soy diet (doesn’t that sound nice?) or you home cook. Never a bad option, home cooking, but I’ll be honest- I can’t make that commitment. Most people don’t. The big companies have done an excellent job of creating limited ingredient prescription diets, and smaller companies have more recently responded by coming up with various types of low allergen or limited ingredient diets that are available over the counter. The amount of options out there are growing every day, and thank goodness for that.
I’m all about biting the bullet and getting the accurate diagnosis right from the get go. Apollo went through the entire elimination diet process, which took about 10 weeks, and a food challenge. Once I knew the specific antigens he reacted to and confirmed the actual diagnosis, it left me open to find a commercial diet that did not contain those ingredients (though I will say, finding a cat diet without chicken or fish is still not easy.) There are many more choices than there were before, and for that I am really grateful. And so is he, even though he doesn’t know it.
Wellness Pet Foods is one of the companies that has worked very diligently to stay on top of the demand for low antigen and limited ingredient over the counter diets. I’ll be hosting a Twitter party tomorrow with the people from Wellness, from 8-9 PM EST, to talk about food allergies, food intolerances, and Wellness will be sharing some information about their newest products in the Simple and Core lines. There will be !Prizes! and discussion about allergies, and you can ask me all about them or tell me your own experiences. I can go into detail about elimination diets, or talk about the most common allergens, or whatever you want. It will be tons of fun. Did I mention PRIZES for dogs and for cats? We love prizes here.
If any of you don’t know how twitter parties work or don’t go on to twitter, let me know. It’s super easy to create a free account at Twitter.com and you can see the whole discussion from there. Are you in? Don’t make me talk to myself for an hour!