A dog can develop food sensitivities over time, just like humans. People often assume that the allergy is related to something recently added to the diet. In reality, your pet may have been eating the same food for several years before an allergy develops. Dog allergies, just as human allergies, can be identified and treated, but first you need to know how to determine if your dog has food allergies or if the allergy is due to a chemical or environmental reason.
The main symptom of dogs suffering from food allergies is inflamed, itchy skin. Some of the other possible symptoms include, but are not limited to: loss of appetite, persistent ear infections, hair loss, licking or chewing front paws, head shaking, and skin lesions. Allergy symptoms vary and two dogs with the identical allergy trigger may present different symptoms.
The most common ingredients causing allergic reactions in pets include all types of fillers, food coloring, preservatives, beef, chicken, corn, eggs, milk, soy, wheat, pork and whey.
If you suspect your dog has food allergies, follow these steps to determine the cause of the dog allergy:
- You should consult your veterinarian. Before assuming your dog has a food allergy, you will need to rule out seasonal and chemical allergies. You should also have your pet checked for pests, such as sarcoptic mange, or fleas. Your veterinarian may suggest cortisone medication to see if the dog's condition will improve. He or she can also do a skin biopsy to confirm there are food allergies.
- If you determine food is the culprit of your dog's allergic reaction, start your dog on an elimination diet. Eliminate the food your pet is currently eating and replace it with ingredients it has never eaten before. This may require a little extra work on your part, because the diet will not be commercial dog food. The food should contain a ratio of approximately two parts starch to one part protein.
Some protein recommendations include duck, salmon, venison, rabbit or soy (if your dog's diet did not previously contain soy).
Starch recommendations include rice, peas or potatoes.
- Your veterinarian may also have a special hypoallergenic healthy dog food to try, prior to resorting to the elimination diet.
- While on this restricted diet, symptoms should improve. You can re-add other food items one at a time. Allow about a week between adding additional foods, and only add one new food at a time. If your dog starts showing any symptoms, eliminate the last food added to see if he improves.
- Once you know what food is triggering the allergic response, you can purchase dog food that does not contain that allergen. Check with your veterinarian for pet foods created especially for pets with specific allergies. A dog food allergy can oftentimes be completely controlled once the trigger is eliminated.
Your other option is to create your own pet food at home, using hypoallergenic ingredients. You will want to be sure any long-term diet contains all of the vitamins, and minerals your dog's body needs. Consult your veterinarian for a long-term diet containing all the nutrients your pet requires.