During the allergy workup, a test called an elimination diet trial is often recommended. Sometimes this recommendation makes pet owners visibly cringe! We understand that changing your pet’s diet can be time consuming and stressful. However, we still make the recommendation because elimination diet trial and food re-introduction (food challenge) is the only reliable way to diagnose or rule out a food allergy in pets. Unfortunately, food allergy tests are not accurate. We hope the following information will answer some questions about diet trials, and maybe give you some useful tips that you can put into action during your pet’s diet trial.
Elimination diet trials can be a failure from the very beginning if the diet selection is not appropriate. When we prescribe elimination diet trials, we only recommend using either home prepared novel, limited ingredient diets or prescription novel, limited ingredient or hydrolyzed diets. Although they are often hyped, over the counter limited ingredient diets are not acceptable for an elimination diet trial. Protein ingredients not listed on the pet food label have been repeatedly documented in over the counter limited ingredient foods, making them problematic for use in elimination diet trials.
During the elimination diet trial, pet owners often wonder about how to administer pills and give treats while still staying within the confines of the diet trial. Here are some creative ideas to try:
Process some of the prescription kibble in a food processor, then add water to make a “wet food” consistency, which can be used for giving pills or mixed with dry kibble for a different texture.
Check with our staff about using fruits or vegetables for treats – things like baby carrots or apples may be allowed during your pet’s diet trial. Just remember– no grapes, raisins, or onions…these are toxic to pets!
Many of the prescription diets come with prescription treats.
Vegan marshmallows are great for pill administration during an elimination diet trial.
If your pet has already been prescribed a prescription diet for another health problem, we still have options! Some of the newer prescription diets have been specifically formulated for dogs and cats with more than one medical condition. For example, there is prescription foods that addresses both food allergy and kidney disease. These special prescription diets allow us to perform a true elimination diet trial without neglecting the dietary therapy prescribed for a patient’s other medical conditions. Be sure to ask our staff or your pet’s dermatologist about acceptable flea/tick and heartworm preventatives during the diet trial. We have seen patients who have such severe food allergies that the flavoring in their monthly preventatives can cause any itchy allergy flare!
An elimination diet trial will typically last about 6-8 weeks. If a diagnosis of food allergies has been made, some pets may eventually be able to transition to an over the counter limited ingredient diet for long-term use. Your pet’s dermatologist can talk with you about the diet challenge process, in which new foods are introduced to your pet systematically, in a way that allows determination of individual sensitivities and tolerances. If you have chosen to make a home-cooked diet for your pet’s elimination diet trial, you can still go through the diet challenge process with the goal of finding an over the counter pet food for long-term use. Or, if you want to continue to cook for your pet, talk with our doctors about making sure the home cooked diet is nutritionally complete and balanced.
Performing a true elimination diet trial can seem like a pain, but obtaining a proper allergic diagnosis always makes it worthwhile in the end.