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Nutrition & Itch in Dogs & Cats: Is it the Food?

dermatology free nutrition

Below are some diagnostic tips to help you determine if food is the cause of a patient’s itchiness:

  • Rule out external parasites.
  • Intradermal, saliva, and serum tests are NOT reliable to diagnose food allergies.
  • Diet elimination trials are the best diagnostic tool when done correctly.
    • detailed diet history is key.
    • Diet used for the trial contains ideally novel protein +/- carbohydrate.
    • Complete and balanced diets have been made for elimination diet trials using hydrolyzed proteins to “sneak” by the immune system.
    • Avoid supplements, people’s food, treats, chews, flavored medications, or toothpaste. They might interfere with interpreting the pet’s response.
    • The length of the elimination diet is usually 8 to 12 weeks. The resolution can be sooner!
    • If treating secondary infections with antibiotics, continue the diet 2 weeks past treatment.
  • Diet Challenge:
    • If the pet has a resolution of clinical signs, gradually transition back to the previous diet.
    • If there is no return of clinical signs, it is likely that the medications and properties of the test diet (i.e. omega-3 fatty acids) allowed for skin healing, but dietary agents are not the main etiology.
    • If there is the return of clinical signs (usually quickly) return back to the test diet.  


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About the Author: Megan Sprinkle, DVM (Residency-Trained in Nutrition)

Dr. Megan Sprinkle is an enthusiastic learner and people veterinarian. She completed a clinical nutrition residency at Mizzou where she enriched her curiosity and interest in nutrition, and curiosity and passion for people – especially those in veterinary medicine. Megan is a self-proclaimed nerd in nutrition and is dedicated to finding ways to make an impact.


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