Pet Nutrition

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We want to keep them as cozy and comfortable as we can. Of course we do; they’re our pets! So when we’re choosing their meals and snacks, we are keeping their health and happiness at the front of our minds. Part of deciding what we put in their dishes and what we leave on the shelf is being aware of potential allergens. Pets may develop allergies at any age, so it’s important to be on the lookout for signs throughout their lifetime. Allergic reactions can result from even a trace amount of a specific ingredient. In addition to foods, allergies may also be caused by environmental factors or fleas and ticks. Your veterinarian will help determine the cause of your pet’s allergy; do not attempt to diagnose an allergy on your own. While allergies cannot be cured, they can definitely be managed, and your vet will give you information on how to keep them at bay.

Along with lists of nutritious vs poisonous foods, below you’ll also find easy-to-read tables on common allergens and what to do if you suspect your pet may have an allergy.

DOGS
A healthy canine diet is rich in meat. Nutritious dog food contains a combination of fresh and dried meat, poultry, or fish as well as essential amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, fibers, minerals, and vitamins. High-quality dog food does not need to be expensive. Many affordable brands are complete; just be sure to check for a balance of meat, protein, and plant-based ingredients. All appropriate pet foods should have an AAFCO label that denotes whether it is a complete diet and for which life stage. For more detailed information on AAFCO labeling you can read up on it here. For information on determining the best food for age and weight, visit the SF SPCA Resource Library.

In moderation, you can replace a traditional dog biscuit with:

  • Apple (peeled, seeded, cored) – fiber, vitamin C, breath freshener
  • Banana (peeled) – potassium, fiber, vitamin B, magnesium
  • Carrot (chopped) – potassium, fiber, Vitamin A, dental health
  • Green beans (fresh or cooked) – protein, iron, calcium
  • Sweet potato (cooked) – vitamins A, B6, C, potassium

Never give:

  • Alcohol
  • Apple seeds, mustard seeds
  • Apricot, cherry, peach pits
  • Bulb vegetables like onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots
  • Caffeine, including tea
  • Candy, especially chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Leaves and stems of potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mushrooms, mushroom plants
  • Raw dough/meat/yeast
  • Salt
  • Walnuts
  • Xylitol (note this is used in many low-calorie food products, including gum and some brands of peanut butter)

While all breeds can develop allergies, there are some who are predisposed, including Chinese shar-peis, terriers, golden retrievers, labrador retrievers, lhasa apsos, shih tzus, boxers, pit bulls, and dalmations. You and your veterinarian will decide what is best for your dog. One option may be a brand made without common allergy-causing ingredients. You’ll find a variety of products from Purina​, including Beyond Nature, which is made without any poultry by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy.

Common Food Allergens

Proteins such as beef, chicken, or dairy

Symptoms

  • Upset stomach
  • Vomit/diarrhea
  • Excess gas
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive licking
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Bacterial, fungal, or yeast infections
  • Intense itching

What to Do

Make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will assess possible allergy causes, including food, environment, or flea/tick.

Treatment frequently begins with an 8-12 week trial diet to test for food allergies.

CATS
Like dogs, cats rely on a meat-based diet to get the specific amino and fatty acids needed for complete nutrition. They require vitamin A, taurine, arachidonic acid, and protein. Taurine, specifically, can decrease risk of heart disease, vision impairments, and dental concerns. While dry food can benefit cats’ dental health, an exclusive diet of kibble can cause many cats to become overweight or obese due to the high amount of carbohydrates in dry food. To learn more about maintaining a cat’s healthy weight and what to provide at different life stages, visit the SF SPCA Resource Library.

In moderation, you can replace a traditional cat treat with:

  • Apple (peeled, seeded, cored) – fiber, vitamin C
  • Blueberries – vitamins A and C
  • Cantaloupe (seeded) – beta-carotine, antioxidants
  • Peas – fiber, vitamins A and C

Never give:

  • Alcohol
  • Bulb vegetables like onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots
  • Caffeine, including tea
  • Candy, especially chocolate
  • Dog food of any kind
  • Grapes, raisins
  • Raw eggs, meat, bones
  • Raw dough/yeast
  • Lilies (while not a food, lilies are extremely toxic to cats and should never be accessible)

More common than food allergies, food intolerance is frequently developed in cats. As with dogs, the best course of action should be discussed with your veterinarian. If selecting a new brand of food, you’ll discover multiple nutritious options at Purina, which also has more detailed information on spotting and treating allergies.

Common Food Allergens

Proteins such as beef, chicken, fish, or dairy

Symptoms

  • Skin problems associated with itching/redness, bald areas or abrasions caused by scratching
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Fur ball issues due to swallowing fur
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Respiratory problems (uncommon)

What to Do

Make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will assess possible allergy causes.

Treatment frequently begins with an 8-12 week trial diet to test for food allergies.

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  • forever homes for vulnerable dogs and cats
  • transformative medical & behavioral care
  • disease prevention with free and low-cost vaccines

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