Food allergies in dogs are very common and particularly upsetting to both the animal and their caregivers. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, gas, skin/coat issues, non-seasonal pruritus (itching), ear inflammation/infection, and seizures.
The first step in addressing a dog food allergy is identifying it, but it can be difficult to do so. The process should begin with a trip to your Veterinarian. The plan will usually involve putting your dog on a simple, bland diet and then the slow reintroduction of other foods every couple of weeks. You may also wish to explore raw or other natural, alternative homemade dog diets to reduce the level of chemicals and gain more control of dietary ingredients overall.
If you suspect a food allergy, you can start by eliminating the following top dog food allergy triggers one by one to determine if symptoms improve:
- Corn (Maize) or corn oil
- Milk – Milk may cause an allergic reaction when other dairy products do not.
- Fish or fish oil
- Chemically treated water (try filtered or distilled)
- Individual preservatives
- Artificial colors and flavors
Dog food allergies may result from long-term feeding of the same ingredient, even lamb and rice. Some experts suggest rotating foods every few months, and/or selecting dietary items that aren’t common, such as duck or venison.
Science has also identified a genetic predisposition for hypersensitivity to food in dogs. With this condition, the endocrine-immune dysfunction results in an erratic metabolism that identifies food as an invader. This can cause intolerance and malabsorption. In these cases, you will find that there is very little you can feed to your dog that doesn’t cause a reaction. Working closely with your Veterinarian to address this extreme sensitivity is advised.
Some dog breeds have been identified (arguably) as being predisposed to food allergies, including Bull Terriers, Lhasa Apso, Bichon Frise, Labrador Retriever, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Dachshund, Boxer, Chinese Crested, Cocker & Springer Spaniel, Collie, German Shepherd, Poodle, Irish Setter, Pug, Miniature Schnauzer, American Hairless Terrier, Dalmatian, Maltese, Pekingese, Fox Terrier, Brussels Griffon, and dogs of mixed heritage that includes these breeds.
Whether or not food allergies in dogs can be prevented is a debatable topic. Respected experts have indicated that nurturing the digestive system in young dogs may prevent allergies and food sensitivity down the road. It has also been suggested that a longer nursing period may prevent food allergies in dogs as it does in humans. Others advise us to avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and suggest re-balancing the digestive system when we do need them. Edible-grade Calcium Montmorillonite Clay addresses allergies through the adsorption of allergens and toxins (including common pet food contaminants and chemicals), while also countering the histamine effect, and stimulating natural purification processes. All of these suggestions will benefit pets in other ways so it can’t hurt to take the advice.
There are few canine conditions that cause more misery than allergies and it can be a tough, long road. We can be encouraged by the fact that progress is being made because dogs are genetically related to humans, so their allergies continue to be heavily studied. This information can then be applied to canine solutions without the need for funding further studies. There has never been more options available than there are today, resulting in a much higher quality of life for allergic dogs.
Day, Michael J. The canine model of dietary hypersensitivity. Division of Veterinary Pathology, Infection and Immunity, School of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol. 2005.
Rosser, Edmund J. DVM, DACVD. Diagnosis & Treatment Of Food Allergy In Dogs. American Animal Hospital Association proceedings. 2009.
Zucker, Martin. Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs : Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nations Top Holistic Veterinarians. 2000.
Knishinsky, Ran. The Clay Cure : Natural Healing from the Earth. 1998.
Winter, William G. DVM The Holistic Veterinary Handbook. 1997.
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