Dog Allergies to Food
Whether you prepare your dog’s food or you serve them processed kibble, dog allergies to food are a real concern and can have serious repercussions for you and your dog. Allergens cause an inflammatory response and chronic inflammation can lead to all sorts of health problems from arthritis to hypertension. How can you help your dog with food allergies? The first step is to identify potential allergens in your dog’s food and then treat them by eliminating the allergen.
Diagnosing dog allergies to food
Dog allergies to food can be challenging to diagnose and treat. Symptoms can resemble that of more external factors like fleas in the case of itchy skin. Or they can resemble internal factors like an ear infection in the case of red spotting around the inside of your dog’s ear. Either of these symptoms may also be a sign of a food allergy. Other signs can include chronic gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or gas, or discoloration in their nose or nails.
Discerning whether or not your dog is dealing with an allergy or an external irritant requires recognizing the persistence of the symptom. Fleas are visible and can be treated, thus the symptoms will disappear. An ear infection can be treated and the symptoms will disappear. With a food allergy the symptom(s) will persist until your dog stops eating whatever it is they are allergic to.
Food allergies must also be distinguished from food intolerances. A food intolerance normally is a sign of either poor digestive health or lack of a particular enzyme needed to digest a particular substance, such as lactose. Lactose intolerance, which denotes a lack of ability to digest milk proteins, will result in poor digestion and have symptoms more like fatigue or loose stool rather than itchy skin.
The only accurate way to diagnose dog allergies or intolerances to food is via an elimination diet. The process is simple: identify all the ingredients that are going into your dog’s diet on a regular basis and begin simplifying and observing. The process can take time but your dog’s quality of life can improve dramatically once allergens and intolerances are eliminated.
The Elimination Diet
If you are feeding your dog processed dry and/or wet food, take a look at the ingredients list and see how extensive it is. Oftentimes packaged foods have extensive ingredient lists, vague terms like “chicken flavor” and unpronounceable chemicals. Try switching to a brand whose ingredients list is short and pronounceable.
If after a couple of weeks you notice your dog’s symptoms have subsided, you can bet there was something in the last brand to which they are allergic. If their symptoms persist but lessen, then give the new food a couple more weeks to see if the symptoms disappear completely. If symptoms persist beyond a month on their new food, then first compare the ingredients list from the old and new food and identify any crossover ingredients. At this point you will have to try switching brands again but this time make certain the new brand does not contain any of the crossover ingredients. The most common food allergies for dogs include wheat, dairy and beef.
If you are making your dog’s food from scratch, this testing process will be easier since you know exactly what is going into your dog’s bowl each day. Begin by simplifying your dog’s diet down to three basic ingredients.
For example, some dog owners who make their own dog food use quinoa as the base because it’s a complete vegetarian protein source. Other owners have a specific recipe they use such as cooked carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, rice and hemp oil. In this case, you would reduce your dog’s diet down to quinoa, carrots and sweet potatoes; following the elimination diet. If your dog’s symptoms persist or worsen after a couple weeks then you know they are allergic to one of those three ingredients and you can eliminate one at a time. If you get down to feeding your dog only cooked quinoa and the symptoms persist then try switching to rice as a base. If symptoms begin to lessen or disappear then you can begin adding new ingredients one at a time and see how your dog responds. Get the idea?
Symptoms related to a food allergy should subside or disappear within a couple weeks depending on the severity of the allergy.
Other owners may include table scraps in their dog’s diet. While some dogs with extraordinarily healthy digestion may be able to handle such a diet, when it comes to a suspected allergy, including table scraps diet will make it almost impossible to diagnose the culprit.
For your dog, it’s most important that you achieve a balanced diet containing adequate levels of protein, healthy fats and nutrients. Buy from high-quality, reputable producers of processed dog food. Or if you’ve never tried making your dog’s food from scratch, it may be time to try. The process can be rewarding and even fun! Also, supplement your dog's diet with oils and other health-promoting substances.
There are plenty of homemade dog food recipes online to start, just make sure they use only wholesome, high-quality ingredients. And try spraying hemp oil for dogs on top.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information contained or made available through the ColoradoDog website is not intended to constitute or substitute for legal advice or veterinary advice.