Food Trial Procedure
By Dr. Karen Burgess
A food trial involves feeding a novel protein and carbohydrate source diet to a pet for six to twelve weeks. During this time clinical signs are monitored for improvement. Eighty percent of animals will have responded by six weeks but the remainder can take up to twelve weeks. Committing to a food trial needs to involve all family and friends that come in contact with the pet. It is imperative that no other food, treats, or potentially contaminated toys be offered for the duration of the trial. Specific hypoallergenic treats may be recommended or kibble used as treats. While prescription diets may seem more expensive, if they solve a pet’s problem they typically prevent discomfort and save money in the long run. Additionally, all prescription diets come with a 100% guarantee even if opened.
There are two specific categories of hypoallergenic diets available. The first contains a “novel” or new protein and carbohydrate source. Since many dogs and cats have now been exposed to lamb, fish, and even venison, common proteins in these diets include duck, rabbit, and kangaroo. Clients often wonder why an over the counter limited ingredient diet is not a viable option. In a recent study three out of four commercial venison diets claiming to contain no soy, poultry, or beef tested positive for at least one of these antigens/proteins. Prescription novel protein diets are manufactured and tested rigorously to ensure no cross contamination.
The second form of hypoallergenic food is made with hydrolyzed protein which is a conventional protein (such as chicken or soy) that has been reduced to a moleculer size that the immune system cannot recognize and thus react to.
Some owners are interested in home cooked hypoallergenic diets. While a viable option, these diets tend to be more labor intensive and end up being more expensive than prescription diets. If using a homemade diet long-term it should be formulated specifically for your pet by a veterinary nutritionist.
Regardless of type of diet used, please consult with your veterinarian regarding appropriate feeding amounts.
Treat suggestions during a food trial:
- Blenderize food trial kibble with water and a little honey into a doughy consistency, ball up to treat size and store on wax paper in a refrigerated plastic container
- Canned version of food trial diet if available
- If using oat based diet, thick cooked Quik oatmeal with a little honey, store as above
- Kongs with food trial kibble or above dough on the inside
- If potato based diet, baked frozen French fries