Food Allergies in Dogs
If you suspect your dog suffers from food allergies or sensitivity to an ingredient in their usual food, it's important to know what the common symptoms of food allergies are. It’s also important to know what you should do if your dog is diagnosed with a food allergy.
Signs & Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs
Food allergies in dogs often begin to appear as the dog reaches their first birthday, although allergies and sensitivities can develop at any age.
The most common signs and symptoms of food allergies in dogs include:
- Red irritated skin
- Rashes on the ears and feet
Common Causes of Food Allergies in Dogs
Proteins from animal or plant-based ingredients are usually the cause of allergic reactions. Beef, dairy, corn, and wheat are normally the most problematic foods for dogs. To make matters more annoying, it can take a fairly long time for the symptoms of food allergies to appear. It’s not unusual for a dog to be allergic to a food that they have been eating for many months.
Diagnosing Your Dogs Food Allergies
The only real way to diagnose food allergies in dogs is through an elimination diet.
If your veterinarian suspects your dog suffers from a food allergy, they may prescribe specially-formulated, hypoallergenic dog food for your dog. For about 8-10 weeks, you will only feed your dog this food to gauge whether the dietary change helps to alleviate 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). This special 10-week diet will allow your dog's body to adjust to the 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.
Best Foods 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
If your dog's food allergy symptoms are severe, your veterinarian might recommend you feed them prescription dog food. This can be pricey, but protein and hydrolyzed diets available by prescription only are usually better than those bought 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 have one protein source, such as beef, lamb, or chicken, and are often combined with a single carbohydrate source. When you're shopping for limited ingredient dog foods, it's important to check for a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO), and a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Novel-Ingredient Dog Food
Novel ingredients in dog food 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 food also use unusual carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, to help balance out the diet.