Diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats

Aust Vet J. 1994 Oct;71(10):322-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-0813.1994.tb00907.x.


This paper reviews food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats. Adverse reactions to ingested food components can affect many systems and can produce signs involving the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and central nervous system, and these clinical signs are reviewed. Most basic food ingredients have the potential to induce an allergic response, although most reactions are caused by proteins. In particular, dogs and cats can become sensitive to cow's milk, beef, fish or cereal. Food allergy and intolerance is rare in dogs and cats, although the incidence in practice is difficult to establish. Clinical signs are quite variable, depending on the individual response, although the major clinical sign is pruritus. Diagnosis can be difficult, as there is no single test available to help the clinician to confirm or refute the presence of food sensitivity. Diagnosis is based on dietary investigation in the form of elimination diets and test meals. Elimination diets for dogs include lamb, chicken, rabbit, horse meat and fish as sources of protein, with rice or potatoes. Successful elimination diets for cats include lamb, chicken, rabbit or venison, with rice. Improvement in clinical signs while on the elimination diet is suggestive of food allergy. The diagnosis should be confirmed by feeding the original diet, with the development of clinical signs within 7 to 14 days of feeding.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cat Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cat Diseases / therapy*
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases / therapy*
  • Dogs
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Food Hypersensitivity / veterinary*
  • Lactose Intolerance / veterinary