Dishing on Pet Food

Melissa Brookshire, DVM, has years of expertise in consumer relations issues impacting the pet food industry. Founder of North River Enterprises, Brookshire and her veterinary team provide customized consumer support solutions. She writes on timely industry topics impacting consumer relations.

Pet Food Ingredients

What did you change in this pet food?

Fall is an amazing time of the year. Riots of color amaze us. The crisp mornings make coffee that much better. But what about seasonal allergies? The itchy eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat? There is always a lot of attention on seasonal allergies as we leave winter and enter spring, but fall is a common time for seasonal allergies in people and in pets. 

After digestive upset, itchy skin is one of the most common complaints received in pet food customer support departments. The complaint usually sounds like this: “I have been feeding this food for years and just got a new bag. Now my dog is scratching like crazy. What did you change?”

Educating customer support professionals to handle this type of inquiry is particularly important during seasonal transitions. Arming your team with tools to pass along that education is helpful for resolving these issues and keeping your customers happy.

Food allergies are the least common type of allergy in pets. And, they do not happen instantly except in rare cases in young animals. Pets that eat the same food over their entire life can develop allergies to one or more of the ingredients in the food that contains protein. This includes the obvious animal protein sources, but other ingredients such as carbohydrate sources also contain proteins that could potentially trigger an allergic response. The important thing to remember is that the allergy is not a response to a change in the diet, but rather an inappropriate immune system response to a protein that the body has been exposed to over a period of time.

Flea allergies are the most common cause of itchy pets. There is a protein in the saliva of fleas that triggers an allergic response. Pets do not have to be covered in fleas to suffer from flea allergy; the bite of a single pesky flea can lead to a miserable, itchy pet.

Atopy, or inhalant allergies, are the second most common cause of itchy skin in pets. While we humans have stuffy noses and can’t stop sneezing, pets have itchy eyes, itchy paws and generally itchy skin. These types of allergies commonly start out mild and after each seasonal change worsen until the pet is truly miserable. Allergy testing works well for identifying environmental causes of allergy symptoms.

So, as the calls and emails roll in with complaints of itchy pets, move the focus from the food to the other, more likely causes. If a food allergy is truly suspected by the veterinarian treating the pet, offering a dietary option with a completely different ingredient profile or limited ingredients may be helpful.




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