Allergies and Your Pet
This week, Drs. Andrea Dunnings and Erin Ringstrom of East Atlanta Animal Clinic answer your pet questions regarding allergies
Q: How do I tell if my cat has a food allergy?
Dr. Dunnings: Look for nonstop itching or increased itching. Sometimes there is hair loss, in addition to excessive licking or pulling of the hair. Diarrhea also may be a sign, but the symptoms really can run the gamut. If you suspect that there is an issue with your pet's food, consult your veterinarian for advice.
Q: Between the "crude protein" and the moisture content, I have no idea how to select a quality food for my pet. How do I figure out the best option?
Dr. Ringstrom: Those nutrition labels don't provide consumers with very helpful information. Instead, look for the words "complete and balanced" as indicated by the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO). This organization works with U.S. pet food manufacturers to establish standardized production and labeling practices. Keep in mind that some of the smaller organic companies with new foods on the market may not have that label. It doesn't mean the food is bad, we just don't have proof through food trials that it is a good food.
Dr. Dunnings: In addition the AAFCO statement that food is "complete and balanced," here are some other points to consider when shopping for pet food:
- Feeding trial: Manufacturer's claims should be substantiated by an AAFCO feeding trail.
- Accessibility: There should be a toll-free number so consumers can call with questions.
- Digestibility: Look for the words "highly digestible" or 80 percent digestible. Otherwise, you may be wasting money on food that goes right through your pet.
- Reputation is everything: Even with a stellar list of ingredients, it may be best to avoid new brands until they have been on the market for a while.
- Focus on the nutrients: We get so caught up in the label that we miss true content. Dogs and cats generally require specific nutrients not necessarily specific proteins. Protein is a nutrient, and it doesn't really matter how they get that protein. Any meat source — from chicken breast to chicken meal — is a good source of protein.
Dr. Ringstrom: People get turned off when they see chicken by-products. But tendons, ligament and joints can still be good for cats and dogs because they provide nutrients. Cats and dogs are used to eating the whole animal.