Just like us, our canine friends can experience allergies to different types of food. This can lead to concerning symptoms and leave pet owners worried. Today, our Monroe vets discuss everything you should know about dog food allergies, including the common signs and treatment options.
Food Allergies in Dogs
A food allergy will occur in a dog when their immune system mistakenly identifies a particular food ingredient, typically the protein source of protein as harmful. Their body then responds by creating defensive antibodies to fight the allergen.
Dogs with one food allergy have been known to develop sensitivities to other ingredients over time. This means that if your dog has a food allergy, you have to pay close attention to any new symptoms so you can adjust their diet as needed.
Dog Food Allergies Symptoms
The signs of food allergies in dogs will generally appear before they reach one year old. That being said, certain intolerances and sensitivities can appear at any age.
The typical signs of dog food allergies are:
- Red irritated skin
- Rashes on the ears and feet
- Weight loss
Common Food Allergies for Dogs
Proteins from animal or plant-based ingredients in the diet are most often the cause of dog allergies. Typically, beef, dairy, eggs, chicken, soy, corn, and wheat are the most problematic foods for dogs. It is not unusual for a dog to be allergic to a food that they have been eating for months, so it's always best to keep an eye out for any signs of an allergy.
Food Allergy Testing for Dogs
The most accurate way of diagnosing a food allergy is to provide your dog with a hypoallergenic diet for eight to twelve weeks. This method of testing is referred to as an elimination trial. To be as effective as possible for your dog, this diet must not contain any ingredients that it has previously eaten. It is also required that no other foods, treats, or supplements be fed to them during this time.
If your dog's allergy symptoms seem to clear up while on the food trial, the next step is to begin re-introducing your dog to their old food. If your dog's symptoms resolve with the food trial but return within one week of the testing, your pup has been definitively diagnosed with a food allergy.
There are also blood tests that can indicate whether a dog is allergic to a specific food. These are called serum IgE tests. Your veterinarian can help you decide whether they would be beneficial in diagnosing your pet's condition. That being said, there is some evidence suggesting that blood testing is not as effective as food elimination trials.
Managing & Treating Food Allergies in Dogs
Once the food to which your dog is allergic has been identified, a diet that does not contain it can be selected. Today, there are several hypoallergenic diets available that your dog should be able to eat for the rest of their life. Your veterinarian can help you pick out the ideal food for your pup.
Some dog foods available in retail stores may state that they do not contain the ingredient(s) that your dog is allergic to, but unlike a diet provided by your veterinarian, retail pet foods are not manufactured with the extreme health and safety protocols to prevent cross-contamination. It is always best to listen to your veterinarian and follow instructions carefully when it comes to your dog's food.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dogs with food allergies. The only 'treatment' is avoiding the ingredient(s) altogether. Most dogs can be successfully treated with a hypoallergenic diet, however, a dog may require medication if they experience a severe episode or reaction.
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.