Dog Food Allergies

Like humans, our pets can have dietary issues that leave them feeling less than their best. Whether it’s itchy skin or tummy troubles, dog food allergies and sensitivities can be challenging for any pet parent.

Giving your pup the best nutrition possible means understanding what triggers flare-ups and learning how to swap out allergen-laden dog foods with nourishing alternatives to keep your pup’s tail wagging.

Common Dog Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Common Dog food allergies

Food allergies and sensitivities in dogs are not just about picky eating; they’re real health issues that can impact your pet’s quality of life. Both conditions involve adverse reactions to food, but they occur through different mechanisms and require different approaches to managing effectively. 

Food allergies are the immune system’s response to specific proteins in food. When a dog is allergic to one particular food, its immune system mistakenly identifies it as a threat. It launches a defense, leading to symptoms affecting the dog’s skin, gastrointestinal system or both. 

Food sensitivities or food intolerances do not involve the immune system. Instead, they occur when a dog’s digestive system cannot properly digest a particular ingredient, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive gas. 

Some common ingredients in dog foods that can trigger allergies or sensitivities in dogs include: 

  • Proteins. Eggs and dairy are among the most common protein sources that can trigger dog food allergies.
  • Grains. Wheat, corn and soy are grains that some dogs can be allergic or sensitive to. Though less common than protein allergies, grain sensitivities can still cause discomfort. 
  • Additives. Certain additives in dog foods, such as artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, may also trigger allergic reactions or sensitivities in some dogs. 

Diagnosing Food Allergies in Dogs 

Diagonising food allergies in dog

Figuring out if your dog has food allergies or sensitivities means cooperating with your vet to determine the source of your pup’s discomfort.

The initial step in the diagnostic process involves a comprehensive evaluation by the veterinarian, including a detailed review of the dog’s dietary history and a thorough physical examination. Given the overlapping symptoms between food allergies and other conditions, such as parasitic infections or environmental allergies, your vet may perform additional tests to eliminate these as potential causes. 

Your vet will suggest starting an elimination diet, which narrows down your dog’s food to new ingredients and systematically cuts out the usual allergens. This diet often includes just one new protein and carbohydrate your dog hasn’t eaten before. 

For up to 12 weeks, your dog must follow this diet and avoid treats, supplements and flavored medications. This period allows your vet to observe any improvements in symptoms and find a link between your dog’s standard diet and their allergic reactions. 

Following a successful elimination diet, when symptoms have subsided, you’ll gradually reintroduce individual ingredients back into the dog’s meals. This step-by-step approach helps identify the exact allergens as you watch to see if any symptoms come back with each ingredient you reintroduce. 

How to Create a Special Diet for Your Dog 

Special Diet for Your Dog 

Creating a special diet for a dog with allergies or sensitivities involves more than just picking the right brand off the shelf; it’s about understanding your dog’s unique needs and responding to them thoughtfully. Here’s your guide to ensuring your dog receives the nutrition it requires, minus the ingredients that cause problems. 

  • Nutritional balance. Make sure their diet remains nutritionally balanced. Dogs need the right mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Look for foods that meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for your dog’s life stage. 
  • Quality of ingredients. Opt for foods with high-quality human-grade ingredients. As the primary protein source, whole meats or single-source meat meals (like chicken or lamb) are preferable. Avoid foods with ambiguous labeling like “meat meal” or “animal fat.” 
  • Limited ingredient recipes. To reduce the chances of an allergic reaction, choose dog foods with fewer components, often focusing on one protein and a carbohydrate source. 
  • Try novel proteins and carbohydrates. Ingredients that dogs are less likely to have been exposed to, such as lamb, salmon or sweet potato, are common in hypoallergenic foods to avoid a reaction.
  • Choose grain-free options. While not all dogs need a grain-free diet, some hypoallergenic foods exclude grains for dogs with specific grain sensitivities. Choose grain-free foods like freeze dried raw dog food or recipes that contain ancient grains like millet or quinoa that are less likely to result in a reaction.

Living with Food Allergies and Sensitivities 

Managing food allergies and sensitivities in your dog involves careful changes to their lifestyle. Keeping a close eye on their diet and surroundings and incorporating approaches such as probiotics for dogs to support their digestive health is crucial. 

Also, attend regular vet check-ups to monitor your pup’s condition and adjust their diet as needed. In case of accidental exposure to allergens, keep antihistamines on hand, as recommended by your vet, to manage unexpected reactions. With a few thoughtful adjustments to your pup’s diet and lifestyle, your pet will enjoy a long and happy life.

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