Treating Allergies: Do Single Protein Diets Work?

Why are pet foods and treats getting so fancy? Does my dog or cat really want to eat something like kangaroo or possum?

You may have noticed some unusual flavours of pet food and treats for cats and dogs in pet stores in recent years. Owners of pets with food allergies might know why!

The use of novel (new) proteins in a pet’s diet is aimed at identifying food allergies and other adverse reactions to food (skin, digestive). When the body develops an inappropriate allergic reaction to harmless food ingredients, it can cause a pet to be itchy, prone to skin and ear infections, or have digestive issues like diarrhoea.

When pets are facing such problems, their vet may recommend changing their diet to a “novel protein diet” or “elimination diet” for a trial period of around 9-12 weeks. The principle behind this is that the body shouldn’t produce allergic reactions towards foods that it has never encountered before (though this can happen rarely in some cases).

If your vet has prescribed an elimination food trial for your pet, it is important not to give too many different kinds of food throughout the trial period. Even having one bite of a food that the pet is allergic to, will likely make the whole allergic reaction flare up again. Hence, your vet will probably ask you to select one novel protein and a carbohydrate source that your pet has never eaten before in their life (treats included!) to use for the elimination food trial. Vet clinics may alternatively prescribe specially manufactured hydrolysed pet foods that have ingredients that are broken down so as not to trigger immune allergic reactions.

Fussy eaters and food-motivated pets may find the elimination food trial period very trying, as the restrictions on food ingredients extends to treats, supplements, table scraps and flavoured medications.

Thankfully, more pet food companies are now able to cater to our allergic pets with single-protein diets and treats. While your pet is on an elimination food trial, you can check with a veterinarian whether some of these store-bought foods are compatible with the allergy investigation. There are many tasty, high-quality options available so your pet won’t have to miss out on snack time.