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Your pooch may not just be a picky eater after all.

Jillian Kramer
August 28, 2017

If your cat turns his nose up at a bowl of milk or your dog refuses to take a bite from your peanut-packed protein bar, there's a chance they're not just picky eaters. Instead, your pet may suffer from a food allergy—just like humans do, with the same (very) unpleasant consequences, a new European-based research paper sets out to prove. What's more, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology paper says the number of pets with food allergies is also increasing to be on par with instances of humans' food allergies.

"Not only humans but basically all mammals are susceptible to developing allergies, as their immune system is capable of producing immunoglobulin E," lead author Dr. Isabella Pali-Schöll of the University of Vienna wrote. Immunoglobulin E are antibodies that defend against parasites and viruses—but having elevated immunoglobulin E can cause allergies, with symptoms that include hay fever, allergic asthma, and even anaphylactic shock.

If our pets have elevated immunoglobulin E, they can develop allergies with the same symptoms we experience. When it comes to dogs, cats, and horses, their allergic reactions most commonly manifest in the skin, followed by their gastrointestinal tract. "Asthma or severe shock reactions have rarely been observed in animals," Pali-Schöll wrote.

Pets can suffer allergic reactions after eating dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, eggs and meat, the paper shows. According to the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, proteins are the number one cause of pet allergies. When animals do have a reaction, they can get rashes and hives, as well as potentially feeling dizzy or sick, or experiencing abdominal pain.

Just like doctors do for humans, if you suspect your pet has food allergies, you will have to remove all current foods from your pet's diet. Then, "during this period of diagnosis, [your pet] will be fed homemade food or [special] food prescribed by a veterinarian," Pali-Schöll wrote. You would then slowly add in various foods, one at a time, to see which cause an allergic reaction in your pet—and that source will need to be eliminated from his or her diet for good because there aren't (yet) any allergy therapies or treatments for animals. "It will take several more years for any products to see market launch and standard application," she said.