Naturally, pet owners do not like to see their furry friends suffer. Unfortunately, many pets do suffer due to dog food allergies. While it may seem upsetting that such allergies are common in all breeds of dogs, the good news is that most are easily treatable.
Some dogs suffer from intolerance to certain foods, and some owners mistake this as being a food allergy. There is a difference between being intolerant to a certain food and being allergic to it. Allergies usually cause skin irritation and/or itching of some sort. Food intolerance, on the other hand, causes diarrhea and/or vomiting but the skin related symptoms would not be present.
The simple answer to treating both food allergy and food intolerance is to provide your dog with a diet that is totally free of the food items that cause the problems. To do that, you must first isolate and identify the food to which he is allergic.
The most common ingredients to which dogs have an allergic reaction are beef, dairy, chicken, wheat, eggs, corn and soy. Pick up most bags of dog food and you’ll see that those are the most common ingredients. Today, lamb and rice diets are becoming popular and some people mistakenly think that they are the answer to pet food allergies. While they may seem to provide a short term solution, that is only because dogs have not, in the past, eaten a diet containing these ingredients. Therefore, they have not had time to develop an allergy to them. If dogs continue to eat lamb and rice, there will likely be cases of allergies from these foods.
Here are some symptoms to look for if you think your dog is suffering from food allergies.
This is the most common symptom associated with dog food allergies. Unfortunately, it is also a symptom closely associated with other types of allergies. You will need to determine what type of allergy is causing the irritation. While food allergies are treated by simply removing the problem food item, other types of allergies may require medication.
If your pet has recurrent ear infections, that is a sign that he has a food allergy. This is particularly true if the infection responds to antibiotics and then recurs when the medication stops.
Skin infections that respond to antibiotics but the resurface after the medication is stopped are another food allergy symptom. Or course, many health concerns can cause a skin infection, and it’s important to determine what the problem is before attempting any type of treatment.
The only way to know for sure that these symptoms are the result of a food allergy and not some other medical condition is to conduct a food trial. To do this, you must feed your dog a food source that he has never eaten in the past. You can do this by providing homemade food, or by purchasing a special commercial food that is produced for this purpose. Your vet can help you choose the food for the food trial.
Once a food has been selected, you must feed that – and only that – to your dog for a period of 12 weeks. During the food trial, it’s important that NO OTHER food be given to your dog. No treats, table scraps or any other type of food. It may be tough for some pet owners to resist giving your pets their normal treats, but it’s the only way to correctly diagnose and treat a food allergy.
The new food must contain only ingredients the pet has never eaten before. If, while feeding the new diet, you notice a marked reduction in the symptoms you would then (after the 12 week period) reintroduce the food the dogs was eating before. If the symptoms then return, a diagnosis of food allergies would be made.
Some vets will do blood testing to try and determine if a food allergy exists, but all agree that blood testing is not as accurate for diagnosing a food allergy, and most say that the only way to correctly diagnose such a condition is by using a food trial. It’s best to decline if your vet offers to do such a blood test. Save the money it would cost to do the blood test and go straight to the food trial. If the blood test shows positive, you are still going to have to do the food test to get a definite diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, the food triggers must be removed from the dog’s diet. Some owners choose to do this by providing a homemade diet. Others opt for specialty food that is prepared commercially.
If the food trial shows that you dog has allergies, you can start your dog on homemade or commercial food and then add ingredients one at a time to try and determine exactly what food caused the reaction. It’s important to only add one ingredient at a time and to continue to feed the test ingredient for a period of at least two weeks. If no symptoms occur, then that food item is safe to add to your pet’s diet. You can then try and add another item. Continue this process, adding ingredients one at a time, until you have isolated the food that caused the problem. This will allow your pet to enjoy a wide variety of foods rather than being fed only one thing.
The best news about dog food allergies is the ease with which you can treat them. They do not require medication in order to get rid of the symptoms, and once the offending food is removed, your pet will soon be free of the annoying and painful symptoms.