All you need to know about food allergies in dogs
If you observe your dog constantly itching or shaking their head vigorously as if to dislodge something, it may be a sign of an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, it is not easy to confirm a food allergy, but a visit to the vet can help rule out any other causes of your dog’s behavior. While most of the cases of dog allergies are a direct result of an adverse reaction to an ingredient, a latent allergy can be triggered by environmental factors too. Keep in mind that food allergies are different from food intolerance.
What is a food allergy in dogs?
These happen when your pet’s immune system overreacts to the proteins present in the food. You may think that meat alone supplies proteins to your dog, but there are many grains and vegetables which are equally good sources of proteins. Any of these proteins are capable of causing a food allergy.
What are the signs of a food allergy?
The most common signs of food allergies in dogs are a gastrointestinal disorder, itching, chronic diarrhea, ear inflammation, and licking their feet.
What are the most common allergens found in dog food which can trigger a reaction?
- Beef: When you have been feeding one type of food for years to your dog, it can cause intolerance to it or an allergic reaction to its ingredients. Beef is perhaps the most common component of any kind of pet food and thus, also the most common allergen.
- Dairy products: Dogs may have problems digesting lactose and this is usually intolerance and not so much an allergy per se. It can result in diarrhea, gas, and vomiting.
- Wheat: Dogs are more likely to develop an allergy to meat rather than whole grains. But, there are always exceptions to this and wheat may be a trigger too.
- Egg: This may cause an allergy when your dog’s immune system starts to overreact to proteins in egg yolk.
- Chicken: Just like lamb and beef, your dog can become allergic to chicken.
- Soy: Studies have shown that soy often triggers health problems like growth issues, reproductive problems, liver diseases, and thyroid.
Ways to diagnose and treat food allergies in dogs
You can use an elimination diet to diagnose food allergies in your dog. This involves taking your dog off whatever he/she is eating and then putting them on a completely new diet. Once their condition improves, you can re-introduce old food items one-by-one to gauge what was responsible for the allergy. If your pet has a reaction again, you will know what caused it. This way, as a dog owner, you can identify a couple of diets that your pet can tolerate, and you can rotate these every few months. At times, the allergies go away on their own when your pet grows up or moves into a new environment.
If your dog has a food allergy, do not waste time looking up fully hypoallergenic diets because there are none. The best options are hydrolyzed diets which you may buy from vets or consult them on how to prepare home-cooked food for your pets.