Fido and Fluffy can suffer from food allergies just like people, a new report says.
But the allergic reactions of cats, dogs and horses mostly affect the skin, followed by the gastrointestinal tract, according to a new position paper from the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“Not only humans but basically all mammals are susceptible to developing allergies, as their immune system is capable of producing immunoglobulin E,” said lead author Isabella Pali-Scholl. She is an associate professor and head of nutritional immunology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria.
Immunoglobulin E is an antibody that usually helps the body fight off invaders. But it can also cause hay fever symptoms, allergic asthma and anaphylactic shock — a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction, the study authors said.
This new paper says other mammals, just like humans, can develop allergies to lactose, milk proteins, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, eggs and meat.
Their responses might differ from human reactions, however.
For example, “asthma or severe shock reactions have rarely been observed in animals,” Pali-Scholl said in a university news release.
According to the report, research into allergies in animals hasn’t been as extensive as research in humans because test samples aren’t always available. This can hurt diagnosis and treatment, the report said.
For now, the best way to diagnose food allergies in four-legged creatures is to eliminate suspected items from their diets and see what happens.
“During this period of diagnosis, the animal will be fed homemade food or diet food prescribed by a veterinarian. Only then, and if there have not been any dangerous allergic reactions before, can ‘normal’ food be gradually reintroduced,” Pali-Scholl said.
Once a diagnosis is made, a special diet can be created that excludes the allergy-triggering foods.
Meanwhile, scientists are testing so-called sublingual and epicutaneous immunotherapy, which is treatment under the tongue or on the skin, respectively. “The first few trial phases have already achieved some success,” Pali-Scholl said.
“But it will take several more years for any products to see market launch and standard application,” she said.
For more about allergies, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.