Dogs, just like their owners, occasionally suffer from different types of allergies. Some are allergic to environmental triggers, such as dust, pollen or dander; but others are allergic to one or more ingredients in their dog food. While it can be difficult to eliminate your pet’s exposure to many environmental triggers, food allergies can often be treated by simply altering your pet’s diet.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
It is important to understand that food allergies manifest differently in dogs than they do in people. Instead of causing potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, food allergies typically cause dogs to suffer from itchy skin (especially on and around the paws), poor skin condition, inflammation and recurrent ear infections. Food allergies do not typically cause digestive upset.
Note that food allergies aren’t the only ailments that cause itching or skin irritation in dogs. Fleas and environmental allergies, for example, can also cause similar symptoms. Accordingly, you should always consult your vet whenever your dog suffers from itchy skin. There aren’t any reliable diagnostic tests that can be performed to determine if your dog is suffering from food allergies, but your vet can rule out some of the other health conditions that cause similar symptoms.
Allergic reactions occur when your dog’s body mistakes a common and safe protein for a dangerous invader. This elicits an immune response from the body, which leads to inflammation and itching, among other things. While most people think of the meats in their dog’s food as being the only proteins present, most plant materials also have some protein as well.
This means that dogs can be allergic to just about any ingredient imaginable. However, some ingredients are more commonly associated with food allergies than others are. Some of the most common allergens, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, include beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, and milk.
Potential Solutions for Dogs with Food Allergies
If your vet suspects that your dog is suffering from a food allergy, he or she will likely encourage you to change foods. The goal is to provide your dog with a food that does not contain the protein that is causing the problems, but there are a couple of different ways to try to achieve this.
1. Hydrolyzed Diets
Some veterinarians recommend feeding a prescription hydrolyzed diet to dogs with food allergies. During the manufacturing process, the proteins in these foods are broken down into very small components. This usually prevents the dog’s immune system from recognizing the offending ingredient and initiating an immune response.
2. Elimination Diets
Other veterinarians prefer for their patients to eat an elimination diet. An elimination diet typically contains only one type of protein source and one carbohydrate source, along with the necessary vitamins, minerals and fats necessary to keep your dog healthy. As long as the problematic proteins aren’t included in the diet, your dog should enjoy some relief within a few weeks.
3. Limited Ingredient Diets
There are also commercial options for treating food allergies. Most of these foods are made without many common allergens and they are typically labelled as being Limited Ingredient Diets (LIDs). You’ll typically find fewer ingredients in these foods, and many will rely on a novel protein, such as kangaroo or venison. As long as the recipe doesn’t include the ingredient causing problems for your dog, he should start feeling better within a few weeks or months of switching to an LID.
Food allergies can be quite frustrating for both you and your dog, but they are usually treatable. And unlike many other health problems, the solution is rather simple: You must simply prevent your dog from eating whatever is triggering his allergy. Just be sure to work together with your vet and address the problem as quickly as possible, so you can put an end to your dog’s itching.
About the Author
Ben Team is an environmental educator and animal lover living in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and Rottweiler. He enjoys writing about a wide range of topics, from ecosystems and nature to animals and pet care. You can find his writings on petwellnessadvisor.com and footstepsintheforest.com.