Food Allergies in Dogs
It's crucial to understand the most typical signs of food allergies in dogs as well as what to do if your dog is found to have one, especially if you suspect that your dog may have a sensitivity to an ingredient in their regular diet or food allergies.
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
Dog allergies are most frequently caused by issues with ingredients in the diet, either animal- or plant-based. For dogs, the foods that cause the most trouble are usually corn, dairy, beef, and wheat. It may seem paradoxical, but food allergies can take a while to cause symptoms to manifest. It is not unusual for a dog that has been eating a certain food for several months to show signs of an allergy.
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.
Throughout the elimination diet, your dog must only be fed hypoallergenic food. Sadly, that implies no secretly slipping in the occasional treat. Your dog's body will have time to acclimate to the new diet during these 10 weeks, and your veterinarian will be able to evaluate your dog's general 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
Your veterinarian might advise you to give your dog prescription dog food if the symptoms of their food allergy are very bad. Even though this is a more expensive option, hydrolyzed diets and novel proteins that are only available with a prescription are usually better than over-the-counter options.
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
Dog foods with limited ingredients combine a single protein source—such as chicken, lamb, or beef—with a single carbohydrate source to mitigate the occurrence of allergens. It's crucial to look for the Association of American Feed Control's (AAFCO) seal of approval and the manufacturer's claim of "complete and balanced" when purchasing dog food with limited ingredients.
Novel Ingredient Dog Food
Dog foods with novel ingredients use less common proteins like salmon, duck, or venison in place of conventional proteins like beef and chicken. In order to help balance the diet, a lot of dog foods with novel ingredients also contain uncommon carbohydrates like sweet potatoes.