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Elimination Diets For Pets: How Do They Work?

Has itching and scratching taken over your pet’s life? Do they lick their paws until their skin is raw and inflamed? Excessive itching, sometimes coupled with chronic gastrointestinal up and recurring ear infections, can often be attributed to a food intolerance. An elimination diet can help you find out what cause your pet’s symptoms so they can get their health back.

Allergies vs. Intolerances
The first thing you need to know to effectively utilize an elimination diet is the difference between a food allergy and an intolerance.
An allergy is similar to what you might see when someone has a nut allergy. They’d have an immediate reaction that can be life-threatening. While some pets do have allergies, symptoms like itching that appear hours to days after consuming a triggering food is more likely to be attributed to a food intolerance.
A food intolerance occurs when your pet is unable to produce the enzymes needed to effectively digest a food. Just like someone who suffers from lactose intolerance does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to enjoy dairy treats, a pet with a food intolerance will not have a life-threatening reaction, though they may be very uncomfortable in the hours following a meal that contains a problem ingredient.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not common for pets to have an intolerance to grains in their food. The most common ingredients that trigger intolerances in pets include beef, chicken, fish, and dairy. Your pet may eat the same food every day with no problem, then suddenly develop an intolerance later in life.

How An Elimination Diet Works
An elimination diet is a short-term limited ingredient diet made up of foods that your pet has never eaten before. If successful, your pet’s symptoms subside in a few weeks. Then, you can add familiar foods back into their diet, one at a time, and monitor your pet closely for symptoms. That way, you’ll be able to isolate any intolerances.
Elimination diets can be tricky. In order to be successful, you must ensure that your pet only consumes foods that are included in the elimination diet for four to eight weeks. Treats, table scraps, scavenged trash, prey, and even flavored medications can contain ingredients that cause a flare-up.
As commercial foods may contain multiple proteins, several sources of carbohydrates, and numerous other ingredients like synthetic vitamins, dyes, and preservatives, it’s difficult to use any of them for an elimination diet.
Holistic veterinarians typically recommend a very simple home-prepared raw diet or fresh cooked diet made up of a novel protein and a novel carbohydrate source. Some vets recommend a commercial hydrolyzed diet in which the protein is processed so it’s easier to digest.
You will need to work closely with your veterinarian to create an elimination diet plan that’s safe and effective for your pet. Your veterinarian can also help manage symptoms to keep your pet comfortable while you work to learn about their intolerances.

When An Elimination Diet Doesn’t Work
It’s possible for your pet to have an allergy or intolerance to substances in their environment. Cleaning products, fabrics, plants, dust, and flea bites can all trigger allergies in pets.
Sometimes, it’s just too difficult to keep your pet on a strict elimination diet. After weeks, even months, you may still not truly understand what’s triggering their symptoms. An allergy test from your veterinarian or the at-home 5Strands Pet Intolerance Test can tell you about your pet’s food and environmental triggers.
Keep in mind that symptoms of a potential food intolerance can be very similar to symptoms of other health conditions. Always consult your vet about any health concerns and before making any major changes to your pet’s diet.