Do You Know Which Ingredients In Your Pets Food Cause Allergies?

on October 1, 2009
Posted in Cats

Every pet owner is on high alert after hearing about so many different pet food recalls. Our pet’s food is just as important to us as our pets are! However, it is not only contaminated pet food that we need to be worried about but rather the ingredients that are in the pet food in the first place.


Allergies in pets have slowly risen over the past few years mostly due to the introduction of sub-par ingredients in pet food. A visit to the vet clinic will reveal a dog with an ear infection, another with dandruff, and yet another dog or three with other kinds of skin problems or gastrointestinal problems. All these are causes of allergies that dogs, and cats, have towards certain ingredients. Unfortunately, those very ingredients are what make up most of the pet food these days.

If you suspect your dog or cat has a food allergy, usually a simple process of elimination can help you figure out which food it is that your pet is allergic to. However, it is sometimes a variety of ingredients or a certain combination of ingredients that cause allergic reactions in our pets.

For this reason there have been quite a few studies that have been performed to determine which ingredients cause the most allergic reactions. For example, in September 2002 the Advances in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery journal published a report in which the researchers had endeavored to tabulate the results of 22 different studies. All this report was able to cover a great variety of smaller studies in order to get the bigger picture; it was, in fact, authored by a pet food manufacturer employee: Philip Roudebush of the Hill’s Science and Technology Center.

Leading Food Allergens in Dogs

The results of Mr. Roudebush’s study determined the following leading food allergens in dogs:

Beef – 34%
Dairy – 20%
Chicken – 20%
Wheat – 16%
Egg – 7%
Lamb – 5%
Soy – 5%
Corn – 3%
Pork – 2%
Rice – 2%
Fish – 1%

The percentages represent the percent of all known food allergy cases that have been caused by that particular ingredient. This does not particularly mean your pet will actually have an allergic reaction to that specific ingredient. Every animal is unique and different.

Leading Food Allergens in Cats

The results of the same study revealed the following allergens in cat food:

Beef – 29%
Dairy – 29%
Fish – 23%
Lamb – 7%
Chicken – 7%
Wheat – 5%
Corn – 5%
Egg – 4%

Once again, the percentages represent known food allergy cases in cats that were caused by a particular ingredient. Not all cats will develop an allergy or be allergic to the same allergen, whether it is a food ingredient or not.

Other Studies

In April of 2006, another study was published, this time in the online journal, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The Belgian researchers concluded the following to be the most common food allergens in dogs and cats:


Beef – 36%
Dairy – 28%
Wheat – 15%
Egg – 10%
‘Diverse’ (this is comprised of corn, rice, ‘biscuit’, chocolate and gluten) – 10%
Chicken – 9.6%
‘Canned foods’ – 8.6%
Soy – 6%
‘Dry foods’ – 6%
Pork – 4%
Rabbit – 1%
Fish – 1%


‘Commercial foods’ (ingredient causing allergies undetermined) – 25%
Beef – 20%
Dairy – 15%
Fish – 13%
‘Diverse’ (includes penicillin, ‘brand’s essence’, gluten, and viscera) – 11%
Lamb – 7%
Poultry – 5%
Barley and Wheat – 5%
Additives – 2%
Rabbit – 1%
Egg – 1%

Pet Food Labels

According to regulations set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials Incorporated (‘AAFCO’), the ingredient list on the label of pet food must be listed in descending order of weight.

The names of the ingredients must also be legally defined, such as ‘meat’ can only refer to cows, pigs, goats and sheep and only includes specified muscle tissues.

A pet food label cannot contain the words ‘all’ or ‘100%’, ‘if the product contains more than one ingredient, not including water sufficient for processing, decharacterizing agents, or trace amounts of preservatives and condiments.’

The majority of the meat and fish and poultry found in pet foods are, in actual fact, meat by-products. This means that they left over from the animal’s carcass once it has been stripped of meat that has been deemed suitable for human consumption.

Grains, such as cereal grains and corn or wheat gluten meal, have been incorporated into pet foods as a means of providing texture and protein. It is the wheat gluten meal that is responsible for the shapes of the pet food, such as chunks or slices.

Photo Credit: Purrs & Paws of A.R.A.S.

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Read also: Kitty’s sore skin healed with Itchy Owie Ointment for cat paws and skin

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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