Problem with Food Elimination Trials

By Dr. Jean Dodds

When a companion animal develops symptoms such as itchy skin or an irritable bowel, most pet caregivers attempt a change in diet or a food elimination trial. However, is a trial truly a long-term solution for the pet's condition? Let's examine more closely.

An elimination trial places a dog on a novel diet that consists of one protein and one carbohydrate to which the dog has had no or limited exposure. In terms of cats, it is generally one protein source. Several problems exist with this test protocol.

A typical trial lasts eight to twelve weeks. It is usually recommended to start dogs on lamb and potatoes. The question becomes whether your dog could be sensitive to lamb or potatoes. You may be causing more harm than good. If his symptoms do not subside, you can persevere and try another novel protein and carbohydrate combination.

Let's assume the lamb and potatoes verified that your dog is sensitive to a particular pet food because the symptoms subsided. You now must move on to the provocation stage in which you reintroduce one protein and one carbohydrate each week.

For both species, you should know which food is the offender when the itchy skin symptoms return at the end of week. However, clinical signs of delayed sensitivities can take up to five weeks to be noticeable. For instance, you introduce beef in week five and chicken in week six. At the end of week six, your companion animal's itchy skin starts again but you would not know if it was the beef, the chicken or another protein.

Confused? You should be. At the end of the day, food elimination trials create too much anxiety, confusion and huge variables for any pet lover.
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