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After presenting the most common dog allergies, I am now trying to present each and one of them and I am about to start with the dog food allergies. Although, they are not the most frequent dog allergies, food allergies are important because they don’t have a real treatment (medication) and because they are hard to identify.
Dogs can develop food allergies gradually, despite having a regular diet. Actually, this is an important aspect that most dog owners fail to understand. The symptoms of food allergies may not be displayed for years. So, a regular diet does not prevent your dog from having food allergies. On contrary, there is a connection between the incidence of allergies and the time of exposure. However, it is important to be constant and feed one specific brand for a long period of time since this is the only way to determine an allergen.
The most common culprits are also the most common ingredients in dog foods. As I mentioned, your dog is more likely to develop allergies if the time he is on a specific diet is longer. I don’t want you to misunderstand my words, so I am going to say it one more time: feeding the same food for a long period is recommended, but not for endless years. This is obviously a chain reaction. You see, feeding the same diet for long periods can trigger allergies but, at the same time, long periods are the only ones that can help us determine a certain offender. Moreover, changing your dog’s diet is the only treatment you have for food allergies but a new diet can generate a new, different allergy. So, sometimes, it can really turn into a never ending story.
The most common dog food allergens are beef, wheat, fish, dairy, chicken, eggs, corn, soy, yeast and sometimes even lamb.
One problem with food allergies in dogs is that their symptoms are very similar to other types of allergies. Before trying to diagnose a dog food allergy, make sure that your dog is not suffering from other allergies, like atopy or flea allergies, sarcoptic mange (canine scabies) or bacterial infections. The symptoms are basically the same, including a poor skin condition, recurrent ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea and bowel movements. Usually, the skin gives the first sign through itchy spots on the face, ears, forelegs, armpits, hairs loss, excessive scratching and skin infections.
Try to remember that there is an important difference between food allergies and food intolerances. The first ones come with skin problems, while the latter are more of a temporary response to a certain food, resulting only in vomiting and diarrhea. What they have in common is that they both can be treated by eliminating the food culprit.
The only solution for food allergies in dogs is changing the diet. However, before changing the diet you need do some food trials on your dog in order to determine the harmful ingredients.
I’ll try to describe a possible sequence of events:
- You think your dog has a food allergy.
- You go to the vet and try to eliminate all other possibilities (atopy, scabies, flea allergy etc.).
- You start your dog on a new diet, consisting of foods he has never eaten before. Common examples of trial diets include rabbit and rice, venison and potato, duck and potato or lamb and rice. The new diet has to be served for 3 months (12 weeks). Although the vets usually recommend 3 weeks, studies have shown that only a small percentage of pets actually respond in these 3 weeks. Most pets respond in a period of 12 weeks. This means you have to feed your dog the new diet for 12 weeks, without any other foods like treats, supplements, garbage, leftovers or medications (particularly flavored medications).
- If your dog has a positive response to the new diet, showing fewer symptoms or none, then you have to do a provocative test. The test is the only way to confirm (or not) the diagnosis and it consists of putting your dog back on the old diet. If the dog starts presenting the same symptoms, then the conclusion is simple: the dog developed an allergy to the old diet. If the dog shows none of the old symptoms, then probably he was not suffering from a food allergy – this is why all other possibilities must be eliminated before suspecting a food allergy.
- If your dog shows no sign of improvement in these 12 weeks and no other diagnosis is confirmed, then you need to change his diet again, introducing him to a new source of food.
The long-term treatment includes elimination of the allergens. So, after identifying the offending ingredients, all you need to do is to avoid them. During the 3 months of food trials, you can offer your dog some relief through steroids or omega-3 fatty acids. These should calm down the itching until the new diet starts having effects.
Also, if you want to find out more about skin issues and how to solve them, Dog Skin Solutions written by Linda Kajda might be helpful. Amazingly enough, it comes together with 3 FREE Bonuses: 1) How to Control your Dog’s Shedding; 2) Pet Massaging – It truly works!; 3) Dog Care Basics: Tips & Techniques for Dealing with 17 Everyday Problems.
Here are the most common questions related to dog food allergy and their answers.
Can I feed my dog a homemade diet as trial diet?
Yes! Actually, a homemade diet is the best way you can control what your dog is eating. Also, it’s the easiest way to determine new allergens by testing your dog periodically. For instance, if he is not allergic to cooked rabbit and rice, after 3 weeks you can replace the rabbit with another type of meat and so on. When your dog starts showing signs of allergy and you are sure they are not caused by something else (like fleas), then you can assume that the new ingredient is to blame. If you decide to put your dog on a homemade diet, it’s better to consult a veterinarian first to find out what are the right amounts of vitamins, minerals and proteins you should feed your dog.
Can I treat my dog by changing the brand?
No. Food allergies are difficult to identify and if your dog is on commercial food, finding the offending ingredient can be really troublesome. This is why a homemade diet is recommended and this is why another brand will probably have 0 effects. Commercial dog foods have many common ingredients and a new brand doesn’t mean you have eliminated the culprit from your dog’s diet.
If you don’t have the time to cook for your dog, just go with a hypoallergenic diet that can be found on the market: venison and rice, rabbit and potato, etc.
Can food allergies be determined through blood test?
Actually, no! Atopy (inhalant allergy) is the only one that can be identified through a blood test. Food allergies, unluckily, can only be detected through several food trials.
Are corn and soy the top allergens?
No! As you can see above, the top allergens are beef, wheat products, fish and dairy. 80% of the food allergies in dogs are caused by these particular ingredients.
Can a regular diet cause food allergies?
Yes! Dogs develop food allergies in time, without showing any of the symptoms for years. So, a regular diet can cause a food allergy. Usually, dogs develop allergies after they are 2-3 years old.
That’s about it! Hope you like my article! Keep posted!
Dog Training Tip #1