Have you been thinking that recently when it comes to your pet, you find that you are so frustrated? You have discovered the annoyance of the licking or itching and scratching that seems to never end lately with your pet. Or maybe, your pet has been licking themselves and itching so bad that they now have bald patches of fur or sore spots on their skin. Finally, after many nights of lost sleep, because all you hear is the obnoxious licking or scratching, you decide to take your pet to the veterinarian.  After a few visits and minimal improvement, your veterinarian may have diagnosed your pet with food allergies.

Food Allergies can be a sad and frustrating thing for pet owners! When it comes to getting control of the food allergies, it can sometimes be an exhausting and expensive process. I have been blessed with two of my dogs having food allergies.  Let’s talk about what to do (and what not to do) when your pet has been diagnosed with food allergies, and how to cope with the changes.

Although it may be expensive, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations

Not only is it disappointing to hear your pet has food allergies, but it can also be quite a shock to your finances. There is the expense of handling secondary issues such as the skin or ear infections going on, plus the expense of the medications and new food. Although the process is overwhelming and can be frustrating, it is imperative to follow your veterinarians’ recommendations. You also must be comfortable enough to talk to your veterinarian if you have any kind of reservations, physical or financial limitations so your veterinarian can work with you to find solutions.

Going through the food trial

Likely, your veterinarian will need to work with you on getting your pet on a different type of food. This can be the hardest part about the whole experience with food allergies, is first determining what your pet is reacting to. Likely there will be a process of elimination that you have to go through to figure out the ingredients that your pet is reacting to.  This could be a long process, as veterinarians say there is not a reliable allergy test for pets with food allergies to determine what they are allergic to.

According to veterinarypartner.com, it can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to get the effects of your pets’ former diet out of their system.  In addition to changing food, there may be a lot of things that need to change with the family and environment at home.  This can be the most discouraging part of the whole process, is the time and expense of trying to figure out what your pet is reacting to. Do NOT cut corners in this process and once again it is important to follow your veterinarians’ exact recommendations to ensure you can get things corrected as quickly as possible.

Watching your home environment and what your pet could be exposed to

Questions to ask:

  • Do you have young kids at home that feed your pet “people food”?
    • Maybe the kids are still in the high-chair phase and are dropping their food everywhere?
      • Or maybe the kids are picky eaters and feed the pet whatever they don’t eat at the dinner table.
  • Maybe it’s not even the kids, it could be you or your partner feeding the pet!

Let’s face it, one of the major ways we show love to our pets is by giving them treats, whether it be small bits of people food or crunchy biscuits, and there is nothing wrong with this until your pet has food allergies.   

Evaluating the environment:

To ensure success, you will need to evaluate your pet’s home and living environment to eliminate any chances of them eating or chewing on something they shouldn’t.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Family mealtime: evaluate the family meals situation, and if your pet could be fed something they are not supposed to eat during this time, or even could pick something up off the floor.
  • Do you have multiple pets in the house? How does the process of feeding all the pets work? You will need to make sure your pet does not have access to other pet’s food in the house if they are on a separate diet.
    • If your pets do not have a set feeding time and you leave a bowl of food out during the day, you will need to make sure your pet does not have access to the other pet’s food. 
  • Make sure your pet is away from any access to human food storage or getting into other pets’ food.
  • Spoiler alert: If you have other small animals in the house that use a litterbox such as cats, rabbits, or ferrets, you will need to keep an eye on your pet, so they do not eat the other pet’s droppings! As disgusting as this may be, it really happens more often than you think.  
  • If you have young children, teenagers, or even a messy partner (ha, ha!) you will need to make sure they are picking up after themselves when it comes to food and snacks. No leaving things out for the pets to get to.

Making Dietary Changes

When your pet is on their special diet, the veterinarian will tell you that it is imperative they are fed NOTHING ELSE during this time. This is to make sure you can determine the diet is working for your pet. If your pet even eats even a fingernail-sized amount of food that they are allergic to, their body will react. 


Is your pet on any medications? This is where some mistakes can happen.

  • If your pet is on a chewable medication, even with their monthly preventatives, you will need to look and see what ingredients are in the chew. Your veterinarian can help with this.
  • If you must hide your pet’s medication in something in order to give it to them, such as a hotdog, piece of cheese, pill pocket, bread, peanut butter, etc., you will need to look at the ingredients in that item.  
  • My dogs are allergic to chicken. I spent two months of going through a food trial only to discover that I forgot to mention the pill pockets I was giving my pups to take their medication had chicken in them. Talk about a waste of time and money!!! Evaluate everything that goes into your pet’s mouth.

Toys and Treats?

Does your pet have a favorite chew toy or treat? Make sure all treats, chew toys, or ANYTHING ELSE that goes in your pet’s mouth does not contain ingredients your pet may be allergic to. Make a list of everything your pet eats or chews on and you can go over this with your veterinarian. This includes rawhide bones, bully sticks, and any other sort of flavored bone or chew toy on the market.

Making Lifestyle Changes

Imagine the feeling when you first start a new diet or try to eliminate something bad out of your regular diet. People usually tend to go a little crazy for the first few days and may even want that food even more now that they know they cannot have it. In a way, your pet may react in the same manner to a change in their food! They are not dumb, they know when we are holding out on them!  Just be prepared for your pet to do things to get food that they may not have done in the past.

Scenarios to consider:

  • Mealtimes: If your pet is a big part of the family dinner routine and could be fed something they shouldn’t have, evaluate how you can isolate them from having direct access to the dinner table.
  • Multiple Pets: If you have multiple pets in the house and they are on a different diet, you will need to separate your pet from the others during mealtime so there is not a chance that they could get the other pet’s food.  If your pets do not have a set mealtime, but instead have a bowl down for them all day, you will need to separate the other pet’s food from the pet with food allergies.
  • With my dogs, they were constantly trying to get into our cat’s food and litter box (gross, I know!). What we had to do is put our kitty’s food out of reach on a dresser and prop her litter box on a shelf.
  • Talk to visitors that visit your house and let them know your pet is on a special diet and cannot be fed anything without talking to you first.
  • If your pet is out in public often, make sure everyone knows to talk to you before giving them ANY sort of treat.

Working with the new limitations

Just because your pet has been diagnosed with food allergies doesn’t mean it is the end of the world for them! There are many things you and the family can do to adapt to the pet’s new dietary limitations:

  • Make a list of healthy treats your pet can have- Carrots, green beans, fruits, etc, and just make sure to get this list approved by your veterinarian.
  • Does your pet’s new food come in a canned formula? You can make “cookies” for them from their canned food.
  • Many special diets also have formulated treats that you can give your pet as they understand how important this habit is to pet owners.
  • Utilize food puzzle toys as well! You can stuff some kibble in a treat-dispensing toy. For dogs, you can even stuff a kong toy full of the canned version of the food and freeze it for a few hours. Now your pet has a yummy frozen treat!
  • Ensure your pet’s chew toys do not have ingredients that they could react to. If they do, find ones that will work- there are so many products out there!

Don’t be discouraged!

The most important thing to remember is that food allergies can be managed well once they are properly diagnosed and under control. My pups were diagnosed with food allergies when they were 2-3 years of age, and they are now 9 and 12 years old. They have lived happy lives, get plenty of treats, and once we figured out their dietary restrictions, they are hardly ever miserable with itching and scratching. We found proper treats for them and made sure there were always treats for when visitors came over. We taught them to “go to their bed” at dinnertime.

With these small changes and a lot of love, we adapted to the situation and have hardly had any problems.  It can be a long process to get allergies under control, but the good news is there are many medications, natural solutions, products, supplies, and dietary changes that can be made so your pet can live a happy, comfortable, itch-free life!

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