The Most Difficult Thing I Ever Asked of a Client
Our previous piece discussed a bit about diet trials, which are often useful in veterinary medicine. Diabetics and patients with stomach upset are probably the ones most likely to benefit from a test diet with a few extra, carefully-chosen ingredients, because food is so intimately linked with their illness. However, most of the buzz around food trials centers on the most demanding type, the elimination trial used for diagnosing food-related skin conditions.
Probably one reason elimination diets are discussed so often is the sheer number of itchy pets out there. Scratching is a really, reallycommon issue, so a lot of people have been doing a lot of internet research on what could possibly be causing it. They’ve often read that XYZ Food can improve their pet’s skin, and that sure sounds like a diet trial. Since pet food merchants are nudging you in that directionanyway and it sounds pretty simple, many people have attempted this test at home without guidance. In reality, the test for food allergy is probably the most challenging thing we ever ask of a client. Food is actually not a very common cause of itching, but a 10-week trial is the only way to find out. It’s so hard to finish the test that I always leave this until late in the game and always require a waiting period between the time we make the plan and the day the client actually gets to take the new food home. On average, only about a third of households will finish the course. That’s got to be because they didn’t know what they were getting into.
Most diet trials involve adding something new to the bowl in one form or another—perhaps that’s fiber, probiotics, more digestible ingredients—but the test for food allergy involves taking away every familiar component of the food. See, if there is actually an allergic reaction causing her itchy skin, any one of the food ingredients could be the offending one. If you’ve looked at any ingredient lists, you know that the array of potential suspects is quiet lengthy. Furthermore, the same names keep cropping up again and again, no matter what bag you flip over for inspection. That’s why the food for these trials is so specialized (and...expensive!)—it is really hard to make pet food out of something that isn’t included in any other pet food. And here is one of the reasons you can’t do it alone. When you pick a different-looking bag off the shelf, you’ll just be getting mostly the same ingredients, although perhaps in a shuffled order. Yes, even if you try to pick a REALLY-different-looking bag. Your vet will explain exactly which food you need for the test, and it is not something you’ve absentmindedly overlooked on the shelf at PetStore.
Dr. M.S. Regan