Food Allergies in Dogs
If you think your dog may be suffering from food allergies or sensitivity to an ingredient in their usual food, it's important to know what the most common symptoms of food allergies are, and what to do if your dog is diagnosed with a food allergy.
Signs & Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs
Though allergies and sensitivities can develop in our pups at any age, food allergies in dogs often start to appear as the dog reaches their first birthday.
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
Problems from animal or plant-based ingredients in a dog's diet are most often to blame for dog allergies. Typically, corn, dairy, beef and wheat are the most problematic foods for dogs. While it may seem counterintuitive, it can take a fairly long time for symptoms of food allergies to appear. It's not unusual for a dog to exhibit allergy symptoms after eating food they've been dining on for many months.
Diagnosing Your Dog's Food Allergies
The only real way to diagnose food allergies in dogs is through an elimination diet.
If your vet conducts a physical exam and suspects that your dog is suffering from a food allergy, a specially formulated hypoallergenic dog food will be prescribed for your pet. For a minimum of 8-10 weeks, you will only feed your dog the prescribed food in order to gauge whether the change in diet helps to alleviate your dog's symptoms.
It is essential that only the 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 vet may recommend that you feed your dog a prescription dog food. While this option can be pricey, novel protein and hydrolyzed diets available by prescription only are typically superior to those that can be purchased over the counter.
Grain-Free Dog Food
If your pet has a sensitivity to corn, wheat and other grains, a 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 address the presence of allergens by including just one protein source, (such as beef, lamb or chicken), often combined with just a single carbohydrate source. When shopping for limited ingredient dog foods it's important to check for a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO), as well as a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Novel Ingredient Dog Food
Novel ingredient dog foods replace traditional dog food proteins such as beef and chicken with more unusual proteins such as salmon, duck, or venison. Many novel ingredient dog foods also use unusual carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes to help balance out the diet.