Itchy skin, gas, and diarrhea can all be signs of food allergies in dogs. Is your dog suffering from any of these symptoms? Today, we discuss dog food allergies, including common allergens, symptoms, and the best foods to feed a dog with allergies.
Does my dog have a food allergy?
If you suspect your dog is suffering from an allergy or sensitivity to an ingredient in their usual food, it's important to determine which ingredient is causing the issue.
Food allergies in dogs often begin to appear as the dog reaches their first birthday, although allergies and sensitivities can develop at any age.
What are the signs of food allergies in dogs?
If your dog is suffering from a food allergy, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Itching and scratching
- Red irritated skin
- Rashes on the ears and feet
What could be causing my dog's allergic reaction?
Proteins from animal or plant-based ingredients in the diet are most often the cause of dog allergies. Typically, beef, dairy, corn, and wheat are the most problematic foods for dogs. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it can take a long time for the symptoms of food allergies to appear. It is not unusual for a dog to be allergic to a food that they have been eating for many months.
How do vets diagnose food allergies in dogs?
The only reliable way to diagnose food allergies in dogs is through an elimination diet.
If your vet suspects your dog is suffering from a food allergy, a specially formulated hypoallergenic dog food will be prescribed for your pet. You will feed your dog only the prescribed food for a minimum of 8-10 weeks in order to gauge whether the change in diet helps to clear up your dog's symptoms.
It is essential that only hypoallergenic food is given to your dog while they are on the elimination diet. (Unfortunately, that means no sneaking in the odd treat, or feeding your pup table scraps). This special 10-week diet will allow your dog's body to adjust to the prescription food and give your vet the opportunity to assess your dog's overall health.
If your dog's symptoms clear up while on the elimination diet, your vet may request that you return to feeding your dog their original diet. If original symptoms return then your vet can be confident that your dog has a food allergy.
What is the best dog food for dogs with allergies?
Following the diagnosis, your vet will work with you to determine the best diet for your dog. A number of food options are available to help alleviate your dog's allergy symptoms.
Prescription Dog Food
In more severe cases, prescription food may be recommended for your dog. While this option can be pricey, novel protein and hydrolyzed diets available by prescription only are typically superior to those that can be purchased over the counter.
Grain-Free Dog Food
If your pet has a sensitivity to corn, wheat, and other grains then grain-free dog food may be ideal. These foods have the added benefit of also being gluten-free.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
Limited ingredient dog foods address the presence of allergens by including just one protein source, (such as beef, lamb, or chicken), often combined with just a single carbohydrate source. When shopping for limited-ingredient dog foods it's important to check for a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO), as well as a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Novel Ingredient Dog Food
Novel ingredients in dog foods replace traditional dog food proteins such as beef and chicken with more unusual proteins such as salmon, duck, or venison. Many novel ingredients in dog foods also use unusual carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes to help balance out the diet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.