Food allergy in dogs and cats: a review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(3):259-73. doi: 10.1080/10408390591001117.


Food allergy (FA) is defined as "all immune-mediated reactions following food intake," in contrast with food intolerance (FI), which is non-immune-mediated. Impairment of the mucosal barrier and loss of oral tolerance are risk factors for the development of FA. Type I, III, and IV hypersensitivity reactions are the most likely immunologic mechanisms. Food allergens are (glyco-)proteins with a molecular weight from 10-70 kDa and are resistant to treatment with heat, acid, and proteases. The exact prevalence of FA in dogs and cats remains unknown. There is no breed, sex or age predilection, although some breeds are commonly affected. Before the onset of clinical signs, the animals have been fed the offending food components for at least two years, although some animals are less than a year old. FA is a non-seasonal disease with skin and/or gastrointestinal disorders. Pruritus is the main complaint and is mostly corticoid-resistant. In 20-30% of the cases, dogs and cats have concurrent allergic diseases (atopy/flea-allergic dermatitis). A reliable diagnosis can only be made with dietary elimination-challenge trials. Provocation testing is necessary for the identification of the causative food component(s). Therapy of FA consists of avoiding the offending food component(s).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases*
  • Cats
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diet
  • Dog Diseases*
  • Dogs
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Food Hypersensitivity / veterinary*
  • Glycoproteins
  • Intestinal Mucosa
  • Pruritus / veterinary


  • Allergens
  • Glycoproteins