Food Allergies in Dogs
Since dogs aren't able to tell us if they are experiencing a food allergy or a sensitivity to an ingredient in their food, watching for the most common symptoms of food allergies is key to understanding when you should act and what to do if your dog is diagnosed with a food allergy.
Signs & Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs
Food allergies in dogs will often appear around the time a pup reaches their first birthday. However, dogs of any age can develop allergies or sensitivities.
The most common signs and symptoms of food allergies in dogs include:
- Rashes on ears and feet
- Red, irritated skin
Owners may notice some of these symptoms, or your vet may identify them during a routine exam.
Common Causes of Food Allergies in Dogs
Dog food sometimes contains plant-based or animal ingredients with proteins that may cause food allergies. Dairy, beef, corn and wheat are among the most common culprits. While it might seem counterintuitive, it can take a fairly long stretch of time for symptoms of food allergies to appear. It's not unusual for a dog to become allergic to a food that they have been eating for months.
How Dogs are Diagnosed with Food Allergies
An elimination diet is the only reliable method of diagnosing food allergies in dogs.
If your vet thinks your dog may be suffering from a food allergy, he or she will prescribe a specially formulated hypoallergenic dog food for your pet. For a minimum of 8 to 10 weeks, you'll only feed your dog the prescribed food in order to discern whether the change in diet helps to alleviate your dog's symptoms.
It's essential that your dog eats only hypoallergenic food while they are on this elimination diet. (Unfortunately, this means no sneaking them the odd treat). This special 10-week diet will help your dog's body to adapt to the food and give your vet the opportunity to assess your dog's overall health.
If your dog's symptoms are alleviated or disappear while they're on the elimination diet, your vet may ask you to return to feeding your dog their original diet. If original symptoms return, then your vet can be confident in diagnosing your dog with a food allergy.
Best Foods for Dogs with Allergies
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.
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.
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.
After your dog is diagnosed, your vet will work with you to find the best diet for your dog. Many food options are available to help alleviate your dog's food allergy symptoms.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.