A new study by More Than Pet Insurance reveals that an increasing number of UK pets are suffering from food intolerances and allergies.
Almost 10% of pets suffer from food intolerances, mirroring the trend amongst humans estimated at 40-45% of the population. Contrary to popular belief, food intolerance is likely to be associated with the food that is most commonly eaten. Pets are most often allergic to wheat (e.g. biscuits) and beef; other common allergens include pork, chicken, milk, soy and fish.
Recognising dietary intolerance is difficult for pet-owners as recurring signs are often passed off as minor illnesses. Once diagnosed, healing the problem is not so easy either. This is made worse because of a lack of legislation governing pet food labelling, which means pet owners cannot always clearly identify what they are feeding their pets.
Pet food manufacturers are currently not obligated to name actual ingredients and some pet food labels use general terms such as 'meat by-products? and ?cereal or animal derivatives?. More Than is calling for those pet food manufacturers to use more accurate labelling to help pet owners and vets in diagnosing and preventing food intolerances. Nowadays 87% of UK vets are recommending more specialist diets for pets, compared to five years ago.
More Than's Veterinary Adviser, Sophie de Pelet, comments: "The way that we care and cater for our pets has changed over the last 50 years. Dogs and cats are no longer kept outside and fed on household scraps, but instead live indoors as part of the family. They tend to be fed more dried, cereal-based biscuits and canned food, the contents of which may be contributing to dietary problems. We all like to treat our pets, but feeding them snacks and titbits can also be at the root of dietary intolerance in affected animals."
"Food allergy and intolerance symptoms that pets suffer from are very similar to those seen in humans, for example, eczema, dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy, all of which can be difficult to attribute to diet alone as this can be caused by so many other disease processes. As a result, diagnosis and treatment can be a lengthy and thus costly exercise. Allergy tests carried out by vets can aid diagnosis, but can cost in excess of £200. Exclusion diets (containing unique forms of protein and carbohydrate specifically catered for the animal in question) will be necessary to confirm diagnosis. Most pet insurance policies will cover the costs of testing, so pet owners should check their policy details to avoid unexpected expense."
Paula Peacock, a Veterinary Nurse at Yorktest Veterinary Service, Europe's leading specialist in food intolerances, comments: "Since we launched our allergy testing service for pets in 2000, more than 12,000 pets have been tested for suspected food allergies and the results, together with the subsequent action of both vets and owners, have proved to be beneficial.
"There is now a wide range of veterinary prescription diets available and while normal pet food is often poorly labelled, there is also an ever-growing range of hypoallergenic diets which do state all ingredients clearly to the benefit of pet owners and vets. Vets will often also recommend a home-made diet ? as with humans, prevention is often the best cure."
95% of vets surveyed agreed that pet insurance was a responsible thing for pet owners to have as well as giving you the peace of mind that vet bills will be covered.