Food allergies account for about ten percent of all the allergies seen in dogs. They also generally account for twenty percent of the causes of itching and scratching in dogs.
What Are Food Allergies?
A food allergy is caused when your dog becomes sensitised to a specific food or ingredient, which in turn creates a complicated antibody response in the dog’s intestinal tract. Unfortunately, just how a pet becomes sensitised to a particular agent in the food is not very well understood.
Despite our lack of understanding of how these food allergies affect our dogs, we do, however, understand:
- the symptoms
- how to diagnose food allergies,
- and how to treat them.
Food allergies affect both male and female dogs, and can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age, but most cases occur when the dog is between 2 and 6 years of age.
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms of food allergies are not dissimilar those of most allergies seen in dogs. The primary symptom is itchy skin that mostly affects the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits, and the area around the anus. Dogs with food allergies sometimes have an increased incidence of bowel movements during the day.
More severe symptoms can also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued.
Diagnosing Food Allergies in Dogs
In order to diagnose a food allergy properly, owners should start their dog on a food trial. The idea of the trial is to remove all the usual foods from your dog's diet and let their system return to its unaggregated state. Once this has been done, you can start to add back in your dog's usual foods, monitoring them for any recurrence of allergic reaction. Since you have controlled everything else, this food must be one of the things causing your dogs allergy and so you can remove it from their diet.
To successfully run a trial, you need to feed your dog a food source that the animal has never eaten before for at least 12 weeks. This will allow your dog's anti-histamine reaction to drop back down to normal levels.
What To Feed Your Dog During the Food Trial
Your dog's diet should consist of consisting of protein and carbohydrates. Rabbit or venison are good choices of protein because they are rarely used in manufacturer’s dog food. You can use potatoes as the carbohydrate. This new food source is the only thing that the dog should eat for the full 12 weeks. This means no treats, flavored medications, rawhide, or pig's ears - nothing but the special food and water.
Plus, your dog should not be allowed to roam free they could scavenge food from garbage or just steal it from another dog!
If your dog shows a marked reduction or elimination of the symptoms after the twelve weeks, then you can gradually re-introduce the original food. If the symptoms return after going back on the original diet, the diagnosis of a food allergy is confirmed. If not, then there must be another cause of the symptoms.
Dogs are natural scavengers, anything they can steal or scavenge always tastes better to them, no matter how bad it is for them. So while they may do backflips for some treat or other, if you discover that it is causing their allergic reactions, you need to remove it from their diet.
Rather than thinking it is cruel to deny them, the cruelty is actually feeding it to them. There is even the risk that these foods can be reducing your dog's life span.